Validation a motivation for Kapono

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

TREVISO, Italy -- For the next week and a half, as long as the Raptors are in Italy, Jason Kapono wishes that there was an E at the end of his last name, and not an O.

"That would really be something," Kapono said yesterday, adding that he would probably garner more respect in this part of the world if his name was pronounced 'Capone,' and not 'Kapono.'

He's joking, of course. Kapono is actually a Hawaiian name. But he is serious about earning respect here during training camp and during the regular season.

The Raptors signed the Long Beach, Calif., native in the off-season to a four-year deal worth about $24 million US, mainly to take advantage of his perimeter skills after leading the NBA in three-point shooting with a loaded Miami Heat team.

But Kapono said yesterday that he wants to prove that he is more than just a one-dimensional player and that Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo did not make a mistake by spending a ton of money on a guy who started only 35 games for the Heat last season.

"On this team I just want to prove that I can do more than just be a spot-up three-point shooter, that I'm not a guy who has to play off of Shaq on the wing, that I can fit in on any other team," Kapono, who averaged a career-high 10.9 points, said.

The four-year veteran admitted that he was anxious to get out of a situation where two players (Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade) dominate, and get to a place where everyone in the court is expected to do more than just offer a supporting role to a couple of superstars.

"They play more of an up-tempo game here, and they allow you to make plays," Kapono said. "In Miami, I played off guys.

"Here, it's an equal feeling," he added. "You no longer have to be passive out there.''

Kapono said he wants to take on more responsibility with the Raptors than he did in Miami. Nothing has been guaranteed in Toronto, but the team braintrust would be greatly disappointed if he did not earn the starting small forward spot ahead of Carlos Delfino and Joey Graham after doling out so much cash.

But that's fine with Kapono, who insists he will never take anything for granted.

"I will never forget that I'm a second-round pick," said Kapono, who was drafted 31st overall in 2003 by the Cleveland Cavaliers. "I was always a fringe guy, so no matter how long my contract is, or how long I play in this league, I'll always want to prove that I'm a good player and I deserve to be here."

Kapono also insisted that he won't be bitter if he is asked not to take quite as many three-point shots.

The Raptors, after all, have more than just one deadly eyed shooter, including Anthony Parker and Andrea Bargnani.

"That's a lot of weapons out there," Kapono said. "But nobody's going to be fighting over shots out there."


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