Crosshair: Jason Kapono


The big black stain on Bryan Colangelo’s resume. A bad signing to start with, Kapono has done nothing but give Colangelo critics a great backdrop for launching their attacks and with good reason. In the two years he’s been here he’s had zero impact on the team, mainly because he doesn’t do what he was hired to do which is shoot threes. To have a Kapono discussion it’s mandatory to first talk about why we shouldn’t be talking about him. He never should have been signed, if you recall defense and rebounding were on the top of the free-agent agenda at the end of the 06-07 campaign. The Nets had exploited our perimeter defense and Mikki Moore had taken care of the boards and we needed to address those known weak-points. Instead, Colangelo’s outside-the-box thinking of having another shooter open up space for Bosh inside backfired and now we’re left with two more years of overpaying for a one-dimensional specialty player.

False hope is what came out of the Orlando series. After making less than five threes in March ’08 he exploded against the Magic by shooting without a conscience. Suddenly it appeared that Sam Mitchell wasn’t using him incorrectly and that there was some hope that he could be integrated into whatever we were trying to do on offense. Most fans were willing to forget his first year with the club and looked ahead to 2008-09 with the hope that if one good came out of the Orlando series it would be Kapono finding his niche with the Raptors. It didn’t happen and the reasons are to this day hard to explain.

To say that he’s a shooter who doesn’t shoot is too simplistic even though the numbers point to that: He finished 12th in the league in 3-point shooting percentage but 78th in attempts. That’s better than the previous year when he finished #1 in percentage and didn’t even rank in the top 100 in attempts. But, just like Mitchell failed, Triano has been so far unsuccessful in getting Kapono enough clean looks, most of his good shots come in transition when the defense has yet to catchup. In the half-court set the defense sticks to him like white on rice forcing him to run around poorly set screens to get himself open, which rarely happens. Are we not running enough plays for Kapono? I don’t think so, he’s not a guy you run plays for, he’s a guy you park or rotate outside the three-point line and force the defense to move away from him through doubles on other players. You know, the same way people like Eddie House, JJ Reddick, Daequan Cook and Daniel Gibson get their threes.

He’s the most aggravating player on the team. He’s plagued with a tendency to pump-fake when no pump-fake is needed which often results in a travel. Most times that turnover happens late in crunch time which makes it even worse. Leo Rautins praises his basketball IQ because he pump-fakes and shoots runners without realizing that that is exactly what NBA defenses would rather have him do. Think about it, would you rather have Kapono take a three or drive to the rim? The acceptance and even praise of mediocrity pisses me off to no end.

Defensively, he’s terrible, as you would expect of a nonathletic, slow-moving entity whose idea of defense is channeling his man towards a help defender that isn’t there. Before the season began I wished that Kapono would take Moon’s minutes in late fourth quarter situations so that our choking offense could get some breathing room, I was proposing giving up a little bit of defense in favor of some offense (IMHO, Moon was an overrated defender). This thinking was also fueled by the Orlando series and was an error in judgment – never extrapolate success from a two-week stretch to an 82-game schedule (ahem, Ben Gordon).

Blaming Kapono for not opening up space and being easily guardable isn’t all his fault, just like his responsibility is to take his defender out to the perimeter so that Bosh has room inside, it is Bosh’s responsibility to take his man inside so that there’s more room for Kapono. What ended up happening was that Bosh played in the 18-20 foot range and Kapono roamed about in the 21-24 foot range. Not nearly enough space for either player to work off each others’ strengths.

The only way I see him being successful is if we play up-tempo and he gets his shots in transition, much like how Quentin Richardson worked in Phoenix. Who knows, if we play true up-tempo ball with Calderon pushing the ball it could even work. Calderon’s specialty is finding players on the perimeter from the perimeter and whenever we’re running the break he makes a special effort to look for Kapono. So far that combination hasn’t worked as well as it needs to but maybe that’s because of the lack of a system or style. In their two years together, neither Kapono or Calderon have proven that they can function together on a consistent basis, do they deserve a third?

To think back to the summer of ’07 and come to terms with the fact that a slasher like Mickael Pietrus was available and was signed by Orlando to lesser money (he makes 5.3M while Kapono averages 6.1M) is heartbreaking. Signing Pietrus was a no-brainer to me because he’s a far more complete player than Kapono will ever be. If you’re catching the Orlando-Boston series you’ll know that JJ Reddick can do what Kapono does at a fraction of the cost. Colangelo needs to make his big signings count for something and so far he’s drawn blanks.

If possible, we need to offload this cat and his 13M over the next two years. We already have one albatross in Marcus Banks taking up valuable cap space, no need for another. In the event of a Bosh trade, Colangelo better ensure that one of those two are swallowed by the other team.

That’s about all I have to say about K-Fraud.

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