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News » Kapono finds change can be good

Kapono finds change can be good

Kapono finds change can be good Preparing to join his fifth NBA team in seven seasons, Jason Kapono needed a change, albeit not by choice.

Jersey No. 24, the only numeral he'd known in his well-travelled professional career, is retired in Kapono's latest port of call, Philadelphia. Its former wearer, a grinder named Bobby Jones, is a legend there. And shortly after Kapono was traded to the City of Brotherly Love by the Raptors in June, the long-distance shooting specialist realized his other obvious choice - No. 3, in honour of his best shot - is also off limits on account of Allen Iverson's memorable run.

So there was Kapono on Tuesday night in the Sixers- Raptors pre-season opener, trotting out his new number against the most recent of his old teams. As the Sixers beat the undermanned Raptors , 107-98, Kapono wore No. 72. And if you were surprised by the unorthodox choice, you don't know Kapono.

"It's an odd number," said Kapono. "I'm an odd person."

He was only half correct. Seventy-two is an even number.

"Okay," nodded Kapono. "It's a rare number. I'm a rare person."

The numbers never added up for Kapono in Toronto. A few off-seasons ago, when he inked a four-year contract worth $24 million (U.S.), he was among the signature signings of GM Bryan Colangelo's early tenure in Toronto. Kapono never lived up to his contract, and theories abound as to why. He blamed one coach, Sam Mitchell, for inconsistent playing time. But when other Mitchell deriders like Andrea Bargnani enjoyed late-season rallies after Mitchell was replaced by Jay Triano, Kapono, 28, never found his niche.

While he's a smart player and a uniquely skilled one - he is the league's career leader in three-point shooting percentage at 45.4 per cent - defenders are clearly aware of his game's prominent dimension. So just as Philadelphia coach Eddie Jordan spoke of Kapono's upside Tuesday - "He runs the offence better than anyone on our team and ... he makes shots," said Jordan - Triano, the Raptors coach, didn't exactly lament Kapono's departure.

"We watched tape with him. We tried to help him. He's a great shooter. (Opponents) know that, so they lean on him," said Triano Tuesday. "It's supposed to create more space for your other guys, but our other guys, whether it was because of injury or whatever, didn't really make (opponents) pay for leaning on Kapono."

Kapono's failures in Toronto are history now - although on Tuesday night he was feted with the occasional heckle of "Kapono sucks!" - and the man for whom he was traded, grinder Reggie Evans, is already the fan favourite Kapono never was. Early in Tuesday night's game Evans, the 6-foot-8 tough guy, made a steal, sunk a layup and drew a foul.

The crowd, 7,213-strong at the John Labatt Centre, was promptly shouting "Reg-gie! Reg-gie!" Evans finished with six points, five fouls and three rebounds in 19 minutes. Alas, the Raptors , playing without star Chris Bosh and newcomers Hedo Turkoglu and Antoine Wright, looked overmatched against a Sixers team which started the high-flying Andre Iguodala, who scored 15 points in 23 minutes, and speedy guard Louis Williams, who scored 17. Bargnani led the Raptors with 22 points.

Kapono scored 12 points on an efficient six shots, but it was his uniform number that stood out. It is perhaps dangerous to make decisive claims about all-time NBA numerology, since records aren't definitive, but according to Basketball-reference.com, nobody had ever worn No. 72 in an NBA game before last night. So how did Kapono happen upon his new digits?

"My old number was 24. I shoot threes. Something clicked when I was in the shower. Like, 'Bang! Twenty-four times three: Seventy-two!'" he said. "It's phenomenal. Nobody's probably ever worn that before ... I'm gonna wear it proudly. I'm a pioneer."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 7, 2009


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