Walking a thin line

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

The Raptors submitted their compact 2008-09 roster to the NBA last night, forced to stay on the safe side of the cap, but on a risky road where injuries are concerned.

As expected, the team had 12 names to fill up its active roster and placed forward Nathan Jawai on the inactive list. They could have added two more to the inactive list for a total of 15 overall, but chose the obvious benefits of working with a smaller group of 13 signed players throughout camp.

However, the team was down to practising four-on-four again yesterday when Jason Kapono joined the bumped and bruised brigade with a minor knee injury from a Sunday practice collision. Coach Sam Mitchell and general manager Bryan Colangelo expect Kapono to be ready for the season opener tomorrow in Philadelphia, but from the moment camp opened and Jawai was shelved for cardiac tests, the team was down around 10 or 11 healthy bodies, making it hard to run a few practices.

"That's the only negative (of a small roster), when guys get hurt it can affect your preparation," centre Jermaine O'Neal said. "But we'll do what we have to, whether it's 4-on-4, 3-on-3 or 3-on-2, we'll get some preparation in. This is a great group of guys who, if they stick together, can do some great things."

When O'Neal and his $20-million-plus US salary are factored in this season, the Raptors are right up against the NBA cap.

"There's obviously not a game-changer out there (who fits under Toronto's cap)," Colangelo said. "The problem is when the nagging injuries add up and there's so little time between games to practice. But the pros of doing it this way are not spending a lot of time trying out players who would might otherwise be cut."

Kapono was seen kibitzing with teammates after doors opened at the Air Canada Centre gym, though Will Solomon (hamstring) and Hassan Adams (shoulder) still are labouring. Adams should be ready by the end of the week.

The Raptors had a second straight extended workout yesterday, mostly reviewing material before they concentrate on readying for the 76ers this morning.

"We are going to tweak certain things we do, but (according) to our principles," Mitchell said. "I'm pleased with the team we have. Bryan's done a great job giving me a good team. What we lack athletically, we make up for basketball-wise."

Mitchell repeated that the team's fortunes will hinge on not being overly dependent on O'Neal, Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon.

"We'll always need that fourth guy to step up," Mitchell said. "It's going to be Andrea (Bargnani) some nights, Jamario (Moon) some nights and Kapono."


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