Forwards come up small

Raptors Darrick Martin looses a ball to Chicago's Thabo Sefolosha during fourth quarter NBA pre...

Raptors Darrick Martin looses a ball to Chicago's Thabo Sefolosha during fourth quarter NBA pre season game in Toronto, October 19, 2007. (Alex Urosevic/Sun)

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

The competition for the Raptors' starting small forward job still is looking pretty small.

Head coach Sam Mitchell is waiting for one of three guys -- Jason Kapono, Carlos Delfino or Joey Graham -- to take the bulls by the horns and claim the starting spot at that position.

Mitchell's patience has to be wearing thin. None of the three has stepped up so far in the pre-season, which was the case again last night in Toronto's 92-82 win over the Chicago Bulls at the Air Canada Centre. The Raps shot 49% from the field and are 3-2 in the pre-season.

Mitchell started Kapono, who signed a four-year deal in the off-season worth about $24 million US, for the third time in five pre-season games. The top three-point shooter in the NBA last season managed only three points in six minutes before being nailed to the bench for the rest of the game.

Delfino, who underachieved for three seasons in Detroit before coming to Toronto in the off-season, played 24 minutes. He contributed three points along with four rebounds and as many assists -- decent numbers, but certainly nothing to write home to Argentina about. He also shot 1-for-7 from the field.

Graham, a second-year forward, has been his usual inconsistent self in the pre-season. Last night, he scored four points but picked up five fouls in 18 minutes.

Still, while that trio struggled, Mitchell was pleased with the overall effort against the 2-2 Bulls.

"I liked what I saw. I liked the tempo of the game and I loved the way we played defence -- going after the ball -- and we were aggressive," he said. "If we can come with that mentality, night in, night out, we'll be okay."

Second-year man Andrea Bargnani continues to play exceptionally well and has all but nailed down a starting spot this season -- at centre, ahead of the incumbent, Rasho Nesterovic. However, with Chris Bosh still out with a sore left knee, both are starting in the pre-season, Bargnani at power forward and Nesterovic at centre.

The seven-foot Bargnani shot 7-for-12 last night from the field, for 19 points, in 25 minutes, and is shooting 26-for-48 (54%) in the five games for Toronto.

Juan Dixon had 17 points off the bench for the Raptors.

Bosh missed his third pre-season game in a row because of left knee soreness suffered during a training session in Treviso, Italy earlier this month.

Chicago played without Ben Gordon (left ankle sprain) and Ben Wallace (day off).

Garbajosa, who suffered a fractured left fibula and dislocated left ankle joint in a fall in Boston last season, did not get into the game, although he did dress.

Another newcomer, forward Jamario Moon, who had played just 15 minutes in the first four pre-season games, had a strong night, collecting 10 points, four rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes, including a dunk after an alley-oop pass from Darrick Martin in the second quarter.

"We think he's got a chance (to make the team)," said Mitchell. "And that's why we've kept him around.

"If Sam says I got a shot, that's pretty good," said Moon, who was signed as a free agent on July 10 after playing 44 games for the Albany Patroons of the CBA last season.

"There's no pressure now. Whenever they call my name, I've just got to be ready."

RAPTORS - 92

BULLS - 82


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