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O'Neal trade good news for Kapono and the Raptors

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Jonah Morris
7/28/2008 11:35:09 PM
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Toronto Raptors small forward Jason Kapono is many things: a two-time three-point shooting champion, a former NBA Champion and an avid golfer. But one thing he is not is a dance expert.

That didn't stop him, however, from serving as a judge at the Toronto Raptors Dance Pak auditions this past weekend.

"Experience? I've got none. I can't dance, period," Kapono said in an interview with TSN.ca.

"I make fun of a lot of people, because they [dance] better than me. I'm somewhat jealous."

Nor did it stop him from proclaiming Kris Humphries as the best dancer in the Raptors' locker room ("Kris Humphries is an unbelievable dancer") and Shaquille O'Neal as the best he's ever played with ("Shaq is the man. He can choreograph if he wanted to.")

It's safe to say, then, you won't be seeing Kapono on the next season of Dancing With the Stars. Instead, come October, expect to see to see the former UCLA Bruin doing more of what he does best: hitting three point shots.

Since the Raptors acquired forward Jermaine O'Neal from the Indiana Pacers last month, much of the talk has focused on how O'Neal will help improve the Raptors porous interior defence, add some much-needed toughness and bring the type of rebounding not seen in these parts since Charles Oakley left town.

"A dominant player in his career," noted Kapono.

"The last couple of years he's been hurt, but his health is back and his knee is feeling good."

But perhaps, just as importantly, will be J.O's ability to play in the low-post and attract defenders to open up the floor for the Raptors' shooters.

"He's a dominant post presence," said Kapono.

O'Neal's ability to play on the block could be a key to the success of players like Kapono, fellow sharpshooter Anthony Parker and ultimately the Raptors as a whole.

When the Raptors signed Kapono last summer to a four-year, $24-million contract, he was expected to be another weapon in an already potent Raptors offence.

"He will contribute significantly to our team in a variety of ways . [in particular] his ability to knock down shots, which spreads the floor and opens up scoring opportunities in the lane on dribble penetration and post-ups," Raptors' GM Bryan Colangelo said at the time.

And while Kapono did end up leading the league in three-point field goal percentage, 48.3%, at times he seemed either unwilling or unable to get his shot off from behind the arc.

Last season, Kapono averaged just 1.5 three-point field goal attempts per game. During one 35-game stretch, Kapono attempted just ten three-point shots total - a shockingly low number for a player of his reputation.

Contrast that with the season before, when as a member of the Miami Heat, Kapono averaged 3.1 three-point field goals per game.

The difference? In Miami, the rather large presence of Shaquille O'Neal often forced opposing teams to send a second defender, leaving Kapono wide open.

"It's awesome to play with a dominant post player. I played with Shaq for two years and got a lot of shots," said Kapono.

Although fellow Raptor Chris Bosh is one of the most dangerous forwards in the game, his success is predicated on speed. Typically, Bosh has already made his move before a double-team can be sent.

A combination of J.O's low-post ability and Kapono's outside shooting should create havoc for opposing defences.

"If [O'Neal's] playing well on the block, that's going to help us out."

"The more shooters and post players you have, you have the balance to create problems for the guys on the defensive end. [Defenders must] choose between helping out on the post or guarding guys who can make shots on the perimeter."

The thought of playing with O'Neal has Kapono excited and looking forward to the beginning of training camp.

"It makes you want to get training camp started just so you can get him in here and used to our system and our sets and used to the guys."

Kapono cautions, however, that it may take some time for O'Neal to get accustomed to the Raptors' system and success may not be immediate.

"You can't expect J.O to learn our system in two weeks. Obviously we are going to have a tough time in the pre-season and have a few bumps in the road."

But Kapono is confident that the success will come.

"He's a veteran. This is his third team now and I don't see him having any problems or us having a problem with him."

Kapono plans to spend the rest of the summer working on his shot and his golf swing.

"My golf game is actually decent. I must say I've made some strides. Hopefully it doesn't snow this year, so I can play 12 months of the year," Kopono added with a smile.

No doubt Raptors fans will hope that Kapono will be better at taking threes next season than he is at making weather predictions.


Jason Kapono (Photo: Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
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