The best way to describe the trading of Jason Kapono from the Toronto Raptors to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Reggie Evans is simple… broken promises. And that isn’t just a one-way street headed out of Toronto and down towards the Iiladelph. Best believe that the unfulfilled potential goes both ways and as much as Kapono in Toronto was a bust of a move, Evans hasn’t exactly been a dependable night-in, night-out spark for Philly.
In what amounts to a swap of offense for defense the Raptors, for the third straight season under general manager Bryan Colangelo, will try to add toughness (finally with some hint of the realization that it isn’t going to come from within). Evans is most often described as a tough-nosed player but with a 14 minutes per game average it remains to be seen how much of it will actually become a potent contagion (something smells like most of his “Toughness 101″ classes will be taught in practice, with some mid-season backdoor credit). His 4.6 rebounds and 3.3 points per game won’t make him a coveted must-have in your fantasy league either, but he also doesn’t need be involved scoring-wise to feel better about rebounding and playing defense.
The statistic most often thrown around with Evans is his per minute rebound rate, which has been in the top ten of the league in six of his seven years in. This past season he placed seventh in rebounds per 48 minutes. It’s a number that would matter a lot more if he ever found himself on the court for extended minutes. While it speaks to some efficiency, the reality is that if the 6-8 forward logs big minutes something has gone wrong. Evans can be downright horrific on offense but has streaks of being a lockdown defender and zeroed in rebounder, both things consistently missing from Toronto’s make-up last season.
The same “tease” quickly became true of Kapono during his two-year stay in Toronto. While his three-point prowess is undeniable he never found a happy place under former Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell, and was up and down under his Mitchell’s mid-season replacement Jay Triano. It was thought that Triano’s permanent hiring last month would mean a second lease on life in Toronto for Kapono but Colangelo could not resist the urge to correct another one of his unproductive signings.
Reversing bad deals has been like a second job for Raptors management this past year, and Kapono’s contributions lacked impact. He was never able to effectively expand his role beyond that of a specialist, though the Raptors gave him a four-year, $24M contract to try. Front court marauders Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani, and Jermaine O’Neal were never enough of a combined threat to give Kapono the room he was used to in Miami, where he played a very limited role behind the strong, attention-grabbing presences of Shaquille O’Neal and Dwayne Wade.
Kapono won’t get that in Philadelphia either – not with Samuel Dalembert manning the middle – but the 76ers haven’t had a star shooter since trading away Kyle Korver two seasons ago. They’ve also developed talent like Thaddeus Young and Marreese Speights and are hopeful that Elton Brand returns to All-Star form next season after a campaign racked with injury. Evans became expendable under these additions and Kapono on paper represents a major upgrade in the shooting department.
The Sixers pay extra in the deal, about $2.5M over the next two seasons – the duration of both player contracts. Evans becomes one of just four Raptors under contract past 2010 on a team that currently does not have a true maximum deal on the payroll. Kapono joins a club committed long-term to Brand and franchise player Andre Iguadala.
Go blow-for-blow and it’s unclear who wins out on this deal. At a glance it would seem like a no-brainer fleece for Philadelphia, who had an overabundance of bigs and no feared long-distance shooters. Simple math, right? Alas, there is nobody on the roster who commands a double-team and the honesty by which the opposition is allowed to defend Philly’s shooters is a contributing factor. The Sixers were dead last in three-point shooting last season with a dismal 31.8 percent. The 76ers only had to give up the least valuable forward on the team while the Raptors had to give up one of the best three-point shooters in the league.
While the Raptors finished the season ranked 21st in rebounding and opponents field goal percentage they spent most of the year ranked lower in both categories. Depending on how the Raptors choose to select in this month’s NBA draft, and whether or not they can re-sign the much-needed Shawn Marion, Evans could have a steady role or play a bit part. The team is selling this as an addition of toughness and after Colangelo sold Bosh, Bargnani and Kris Humphries as the same last year it’s easy to be cautious.
Point guard Jameer Nelson sent a bit of a shockwave throughout NBA circles on Thursday when it was discovered that he would be suiting up for the Orlando Magic in time for Game 1 of the league Final.
By inserting him back into the rotation Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy is risking disrupting a chemistry that has clicked with Rafer Alston as the starting point man and Anthony Johnson as the 15-minutes-or-less back-up.
Nelson was injured this past February when he collided with Dallas Mavericks center Eric Dampier in the third quarter of an eventual 105-95 home loss. Originally diagnosed as a dislocated shoulder, an MRI later revealed a torn labrum. He hasn’t played in an NBA game since and after having surgery to repair his ripped shoulder it was thought that Nelson was gone for the season. However, with the underdog Magic improbably beating both the defending champion Boston Celtics and the 66-win Cleveland Cavaliers to get to the big show, it seems they have bought enough time to allow for Nelson’s return.
That said, in his absence Alston – acquired from the Houston Rockets in a trade deadline day deal in the frenzy to replace Nelson and save their season – has played a major role in helping the Magic reach the Final. While Alston is sure to keep his starting role for now, Nelson’s effectiveness could cut into his minutes significantly if the St. Joseph’s product can return to this season’s form. Nelson was averaging 16.7 points and 5.4 assists through 42 games for Orlando before he went down, earning him his first All-Star selection and a ranking as one of the league’s best point guards. Alston has averaged 11.7 points and 5.3 assists with the Rockets and Magic this season, including a respectable 12.7 points and 4.4 assists through the first three rounds of the postseason.
The Magic played Nelson’s return close to the vest, saying in recent days that the likeliehood of his return to start the series was highly unlikely. Those close to Nelson know him as a fearless competitor who viewed the oppurtunity to suit up for the NBA Final too rare an occassion to pass up. Doctors cleared him to play two weeks ago, he had a full contact practice with his team this week and in the second quarter of Game 1, Nelson was back on the floor just four months after surgeons opened him up and forecasted a probable end to his breakthrough campaign.
Nobody saw this return coming. Then again, who thought the Magic would be in the NBA Final a month ago?
SWAY Sports and Media announced the relaunching of their website SWAYsports.ca this afternoon. While the site officially gets back online June 17, Editor-in-Chief Darren Andrade promises a series of teasers for basketball and sports fans looking for exclusive content.
“SWAY Sports and our writers, editors and producers have always been about telling the untold story,” said Andrade. “We’re league-embedded, we are right next to the biggest names in the NBA and basketball world and we are passionate about bringing their stories and statistics – as well as our own opinions – to sports fans.”
SWAY Sports and Media is a sports content provider, producing exclusive sports content for various media outlets including television, radio, internet, film and print. After co-producing a basketball documentary in 2007 and creating a strong print and television presence over the last half decade, the relaunch of SWAYsports.ca marks a rededication to SWAY’s web interests.
“From day one we have planted our seeds in the internet culture, which at this point includes just about everybody,” Andrade stated. “Our personalities offer strong, honest and coveted opinions on sports and it’s backed up by a long list of appearances and contributions to various forms of media, most notably in television and print. It is the same quality of character and content we always bring to SWAYsports.ca.”
In the back bowels of the Air Canada Centre, before Wednesday night’s date with the visiting Indiana Pacers, there was little talk of the losing streak the Toronto Raptors were mired in, mostly because the night was rife with subplots that felt juicer and more delicious to the salivating media.
The return of T.J. Ford, the banished ex-Raptor who proved more distraction than catalyst in his final half season in Toronto last year, proved to be less than tantalizing with a sub-par game performance (4 points, 4 assists) and, in typical T.J. form, a blame sharing address to the media at morning shoot-around. The sweet and sour trade circuit, which has been operating at a healthy clip in the NBA over the past two weeks, has included the names of many a Raptor. And by the end of the night there was head coach Jay Triano, registering his first win as Raptors bench boss, a 101-88 Raptor’s victory over the equally win-challenged Pacers. It was a delightful treat to be sure, a just dessert after inheriting a team on the verge of collapse, embarking on a tough December schedule and dealing with vocally wary players under his command.
“I think we’ve been taking steps in the right direction,” said Triano. “We had good intensity throughout the game and we got a lot of performance from different guys.”
Yet those storylines were merely the cocktail, appetizer and cleanser to the main meat of the night. On the downer of a five game slide that has landed them out of the playoff picture, the squad rebounded from a sound beating at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers just 24 hours earlier, a loss that had many – both outside and in – wondering if the cause of the season could be salvaged in time. And while the win over the Pacers might have provided a respite, nobody has been fooled into thinking the ills of this underachieving team have been cured.
“We’re not the best team,” said Calderon who bested Ford on the night with 14 assists (two turnovers) and 11 points. “It’s just one little step more. We’re going to have to keep working and keep getting better.
“We see good things. We see the team working the way Jay wants us to work and we’re getting better. We got to keep being patient.”
The biggest beneficiary of the decision to replace the fired Sam Mitchell with Triano could be forward Jason Kapono. With guard Anthony Parker sidelined with a sprained left ankle, announced just prior to tip-off, Kapono got the start in the backcourt alongside Calderon. All he did was drop 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting to lead all scorers, and his eight rebound contribution helped the Raptors at least keep up with the Pacers on the glass if not best them.
“As a starter you get into a rhythm and a flow quicker,” said Kapono in a rare post game appearance in front of his locker. “You know you are going to play more minutes. You don’t have to worry if you start off slow or miss a couple of shots.”
There may be more to the story. Triano hinted after the game that extending more responsibility to Kapono is the plan, possibly even leaving him in the starting line up. Kapono looks to see more time and patience under Triano for several reasons. The first is that Triano believes that Parker, after two seasons as the starting two-guard, is tired of the grind of having to guard the opposition’s most lethal offensive player while being asked to do his share of scoring as well. At last check he wasn’t the only NBAer with that a job description, so it could be read that he may not be up to that task night in and night out, or maybe just less-so at the age of 33. Don’t bank on that being the company line though. Parker is deservedly considered a better defender but Kapono’s team defense combined with his more versatile offense is also in keeping with what Triano needs out of his starting unit. After all, minute management is the real name of the game when it comes to match ups, and on most nights both Parker and Kapono will see a healthy share of fourth quarter burn.
Another ketch in the case for Kapono’s bigger role is that as a player Triano himself was a shooter, and shooters love other shooters.
“Jay, in his playing and coaching days, used a lot of pin-downs, screens and motion type sets,” said Kapono. “That has always been my best game.”
Parker shouldn’t be sidelined for long and when he returns its almost a given that he will again be the starter. Kapono at least, has emerged once again as another option while Triano searches for the right combination of Raptors to help right the sinking ship. With small forward Jamario Moon returned to the starting line up in place of Andrea Bargnani, that envelope is already being pushed, and with most around the team believing that a trade of some sort is imminent – Kapono’s name is oft-mentioned – the mixing and matching appears to have only just begun.
“My job is to show up to work and be ready to practice,” said Kapono. “Any trades and stuff like that… that’s not up to me. I’m just glad I have a job.”