Journeyman Kapono comes of age

RYAN WOLSTAT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

It was feeling wanted for the first time as an NBA player, as much as the truckload of cash offered by the Raptors, that convinced swingman Jason Kapono to commit to the club for four years.

Kapono, introduced yesterday after officially signing a contract worth about $24 million US, will be suiting up next year for his fourth team in five seasons, but believes he has finally found a long-term home.

"I heard throughout my career everything that I couldn't do.,'' he said.

"All the reasons why I didn't fit, why I couldn't stay with a team," he said. "(The Raptors) believe in me and that means a lot.

"They've got a great young team and style of play --free flowing, share the basketball. With my skills, I fit in well here," Kapono added.

Kapono said he was impressed with the full-court press Raptor president and general manager Bryan Colangelo mounted in order to win his services.

"It happened so fast," he said.

"Come July first (the first day NBA teams could woo prospective free agents), at 12:01 Bryan called my agent and it took off very quickly."

Colangelo said during the 2007 season, he, head coach Sam Mitchell and the rest of the staff, quickly recognized that Kapono was the guy they wanted to go after.

"We expect him to be a very valuable piece," Colangelo said."

"The key from a basketball perspective is adding to what we already have a considerable strength -- outside shooting. The more shooters we have on the floor, paired up with T.J. Ford as our point guard and Chris Bosh as our post player, is going to open up opportunities."

Kapono's engaging personality should mesh with the team's strong chemistry.

Colangelo said he was not concerned with any chatter that Kapono's NBA-leading three-point stats were a product of playing with Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade in south Florida.

"There was a time (eight games) where Jason was out there by himself, without Shaq and without Wade creating a lot of offence for the Miami Heat," he said.

"I think that's what left a real mark in Sam's mind in terms of what he's capable of doing without getting easy shots from people."

The stats back up that observation. In the games Wade and O'Neal missed, Kapono averaged 12.5 points and 57% (16-28) from beyond the arc. Up from his season totals of 10.9 and 51%.


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