As soon as the trade was reported, the message boards and blogs went crazy.
"I've NEVER seen someone so happy to GET Rafer. I've seen people happy to get rid of him, but never to get him. He's a horrible player. Don't get too excited," said one fan.
"Well, there goes Orlando's chances at the ECF's," added another.
"You'll hate Rafer. He sucks, worst starting point guard in the league. Because of Rafer being point guard, Dwight's stats will go down, quote it," predicted a Houston fan
So now that Rafer is approaching his twentieth game with the Magic, I have to ask the critics: Care to reassess?
Since acquiring Alston, the Magic have gone 15-4 while taking the number two seed in the East away from the Boston Celtics.
His scoring, assists, steals, rebounding, and field goal percentage are all topping both his career stats and his numbers from earlier this season in Houston. He's doing all of this while playing nearly four minutes less each game and has also lowered his turnovers despite his larger role.
Stan Van Gundy, who had Alston as his starting point guard during his stint in Miami, knew what he was getting in the nine year veteran. An experienced point with a quick first step who likes to push the ball up court and play a fast tempo that has helped improve Orlando's scoring to 102.16 points per game.
He can also disrupt the passing lanes which is important for Van Gundy as he likes his teams to be among the best in the league defensively (Orlando is currently top five in nearly all defensive statistic categories).
While it's easy to see that he's fit in with his teammates on the court, he has also made an impact in the locker room. Positioned right next to Dwight Howard's locker, the center and point guard joke and playfully jab at fellow teammates about all topics, ranging from their playing time to what they're wearing as they leave the arena.
Even "Skip", as many of the players call Alston referencing his streetball days, can't escape the teases. As he changed into an bright orange polo following a game last week, "James and the Giant Peach" and "Florida Orange" were among the names tossed in his direction. Alston took the jabs with a smile and quickly retaliated with clever comebacks.
The team's chemistry is amazing considering that injuries and front office moves have kept the rotation ever changing. Jameer Nelson, Anthony Johnson, Tyronn Lue, and Alston have all seen big minutes at the point guard position but have moved around for various reasons.
Courtney Lee, Keith Bogans, J.J. Redick, and Mickael Pietrus all started at least five games this season at shooting guard.
Thankfully, Otis Smith has done an excellent job assembling this team and the Rafer Alston trade was just the latest example of this. Despite what the critics said early on, Smith's move is looking brilliant as the Magic inch closer and closer to breaking the franchise record of sixty wins in a season and securing homecourt advantage.
If Orlando hopes to do this, Alston will have to keep up his consistent play and continue to lead the team.
Luckily, this is what he has done all along and has shown that he is the perfect fit for this team, no matter what anyone says.