Four men, just one job

The Raptors' Joey Graham finds himself in the middle of a heated competition for the starting small...

The Raptors' Joey Graham finds himself in the middle of a heated competition for the starting small forward position. (Sun File/Stan Behal)

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 3:20 PM ET

As far as questions that need to be answered at the Raptors training camp go, the only one that really holds any intrigue or matters is who will emerge with the starting small forward position.

And depending on who you're asking there are either three or four men vying for the role.

Sam Mitchell, the man whose opinion matters, says it's actually three-plus guys.

The three that everyone agrees are in the running are newcomers Carlos Delfino and Jason Kapano and the ultra-athletic but inconsistent Joey Graham.

The fourth contender, or in Mitchell's case the plus, is Spaniard Jorge Garbajosa. The only reason Mitchell doesn't consider him a contender for the job is because he already is well aware of what Garbajosa can do and therefore will not require an audition by the often-underrated forward.

Mitchell said yesterday he probably won't even give the Spaniard a start in the pre- season preferring to split those between the other three.

And right now the competiion is wide open.

"In spurts, all of them have shown me what I'm looking for, but I need to see more ... from all of them," Mitchell said.

Of the remaining three he is most familiar with, Graham appears to have all the attributes Mitchell is looking for -- athleticism, toughness, the willingness to set picks, take charges, drive to the basket and get to the free throw line.

Graham has shown an ability and willingness to do all that but not on the consistent basis Mitchell requires.

Delfino possesses the athleticism the job requires but Mitchell is not yet convinced he can bring the toughness he is looking for at that spot.

Kapono, a free-agent addition, is a shooter first and foremost, who says he's willing to do whatever else Mitchell wants in order to win a starting role.

"I can make shots, that's my No. 1 thing so I have to do that on a consistent basis," Kapono said. "I have to keep playing hard. I'm not going to be a lock-down (defender), but I can hold my own. I just have to keep playing hard on defence and try to do my best on the glass."

REBOUNDING WILL DECIDE

Mitchell didn't get specific as to how he would weigh the different areas in terms of importance to him, but rebounding is clearly at or near the top for not only those vying for the starting three-role but for all those vying for minutes on this team.

"If a guy wants to play more at the three-spot he's going to have to rebound and help," Mitchell said. "It would give a guy an edge."

Not having used up all his allotted two-a-day practices in Europe, Mitchell took the opportunity yesterday to get his guys on the court twice.

"It's not a punishment," Mitchell said, "it's just training camp. We have to get work in. We have to get better. You have to use practice days because once the season starts you don't get as many of them."

It's also one extra chance for one of the three-plus vying for the starting small forward position to make an impression.


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