Kapono comes up empty

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:38 PM ET

Jason Kapono is arguably the best three-point shooter in the NBA.

But as a member of the Raptors, he might as well hand out the cups of water.

Kapono stil is among the NBA leaders in three-point percentage, having nailed 50 threes in 99 attempts (51%).

But in the past 19 games, he has been a complete non-factor from beyond the arc, and that has the Raptors faithful wondering why general manager Bryan Colangelo went out and signed the former UCLA star to such a long-term deal. Kapono has not made a basket from three-point range in 11 straight games. His last three-point shot made came on Feb. 4 in Miami, when he went 1-for-2.

The Los Angeles native, who led the NBA in three-point percentage (51%) last season, has not even attempted a three-point shot since Feb. 20 -- a span of six straight games.

In the past 19 games for the Raptors, Kapono has attempted four three-pointers, hitting a grand total of two.

Kapono is obviously not playing up to his strength. The Raps will pay Kapono $24 million US over the next four seasons to score, particularly from beyond the arc, and to play some defence, not to rebound or distribute the ball. But not only is he not hitting any threes, he's not even getting the looks from beyond the arc.

His overall stats have wavered. In 58 games this season, he is averaging 19.5 minutes per game, seven minutes less than last season when he was with the Miami Heat. He is averaging 7.8 points per game, which also is down from last season's totals.

There was talk that having T.J. Ford back at the point would be a boon to Kapono's game, because with Ford out 31 games this season, the Raptors' bench players weren't getting the quality passes and open looks that they might have been with a bonafide, well-rested point guard running the offence. But Ford has been back for the past six games and Kapono still hasn't broken out.

Head coach Sam Mitchell said that he needs his key bench players -- Kapono, Carlos Delfino, Rasho Nesterovic -- to play well in order for his club, which has lost two straight heading into tonight's contest in Orlando against the Magic, to have any chance of moving up in the Eastern Conference standings or getting past the first round in the playoffs.

The Raptors have set a team goal of finishing third in the Eastern Conference this season, but more and more that is becoming a tough challenge. The Magic are third with a 38-23 record, 41/2 games ahead of the fifth-place Raptors (32-26). Cleveland is fourth, 34-26. The big challenge for the Raptors is their schedule, as eight of their next 11 games are on the road, including a killer stretch of five in seven days on the West-Coast swing, which begins March 11 in Los Angeles against the Lakers. The Magic, on the other hand, play eight of their next 10 at home.

In the 110-98 loss to the lowly Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday night, the Bobcats scored 32 second-chance points compared to zero for Toronto.

Charlotte also out-rebounded Toronto 50-37. Mitchell worked his players hard in practice yesterday at the Champions Sports Complex in Orlando, particularly on the rebounding part of their game. Without Chris Bosh in the lineup for at least the next two games, the Raptors have to step up on the boards and rebound by committee.


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