Ford's return drives Kapono

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

T.J. Ford's return to the Raptors can be felt throughout the roster.

You can see it in the faces of his teammates and in the boxscore.

But perhaps the greatest impact Ford will have in his new-found role as backup point guard to incumbent floor general Jose Calderon is on Jason Kapono, the deadly eyed three-point bomber who seldom misses when given an open look.

While the team's second unit extends beyond Kapono, Ford's ability to penetrate and kick when defences collapse on the lightning-quick guard suddenly allows Kapono to become more of a factor.

And as a result, Toronto's bench becomes more effective.

Ford, who made his return to the court in Monday's laugher in Miami, will usher in his Toronto return tonight, when the Raptors play host to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Since he was knocked to the floor by Hawks rookie Al Horford in Atlanta on Dec. 11, the Raptors have tried to compensate for Ford's absence by giving Calderon more minutes.

Chris Bosh stepped up in January and continues to play at an all-star level and with Andrea Bargnani finding some level of consistency, the team has been looking to get Kapono more easy looks and more touches.

What makes the Kapono-Ford relationship unique is that both forged a bond prior to their arrival in Toronto.

"We were both drafted in 2003 and we each share the same agent,'' Kapono said.

"We worked out a lot together and we hung around during those pre-draft camps."

When he joined the Raptors this past off-season as a free agent, Kapono started the occasional game when Ford ran the show with the first unit.

Because he isn't the quickest player on the court, Kapono's defence, especially on the perimeter, can be exposed, making him an ideal candidate to come off the bench.

Even with Ford slowly reacquainting himself with his teammates, the adjustment to Kapono is almost seamless.

"I know his game,'' Kapono said of Ford. "I have a good feel for him.

"He penetrates and kicks. Defences have to help and I can make shots."

At least for the foreseeable future, it would be foolhardy for the Raptors to replace Calderon with Ford in the starting rotation.

Heat coach Pat Riley referred to Calderon as a "revelation'' in the wake of Toronto's dismantling of Miami and many NBA observers felt the Spanish sensation should have been an all-star selection.

The Raptors have the luxury of fielding two legitimate point guards who bring different skill sets to the floor.

But Ford's ability to penetrate and kick makes Kapono that much more of a danger and an option on the perimeter.

For his part, Ford said he is content to play second fiddle to Calderon and make a difference on the team's second unit that features the likes of Carlos Delfino, Kris Humphries and Rasho Nesterovic.

But make no mistake, the primary beneficiary will be Kapono.


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