SOMETIMES revelations come at an early age.

Jason Kapono was just starting to get into basketball when he discovered something about himself and the game that would ultimately lead him to the NBA.

"It first dawned on me when I figured out that I could not really run, dribble or dunk," said Kapono, the long-distance shooting specialist the Sixers recently acquired from the Toronto Raptors. "That was when I was about 6 years old.

"I figured that if I wanted to be able to play ball, I'd better be able to shoot. So that's what I worked on - pull-up jumpers on the break, catch and shoot."

In an MTV Generation league where the only way to get a highlight on ESPN is with a rim-rattling dunk or a knee-buckling crossover dribble, we sometimes forget that the essence of basketball is still the ability to shoot.

Of the several flaws that this still-building Sixers team has, its inability to consistently make shots from beyond 8 feet has been its most glaring.

On June 9, the Sixers swapped reserve forward Reggie Evans for Kapono to help address that weakness.

"[The trade] did catch me off guard, because there was no buzz about something happening with Philly," Kapono said. "I had a feeling I might be moved.

"This is a good situation for me. Some guys get traded as throw-ins, and the team they go to doesn't necessarily want them. Everyone in Philly, from the players and management, has made me feel wanted. That's a big confidence booster right there."

To be honest, swapping bench players rarely generates much buzz. But because Kapono, a career 45.4 percent shooter from three-point range, has a skill that Sixers so sorely lack, this trade has generated more attention than it normally would warrant.

It's not how many points Kapono scored that makes him intriguing. It's how he scored them.

He's your basic "catch-and-shoot" player.

Of the 261 field goals he made last season, 98 (37.5 percent) were three-pointers. And most of the rest didn't come on drives to the basket.

"My role has been the same for every team I've been on," said Kapono, a UCLA product who has played for Cleveland, Charlotte, Miami and Toronto in his six seasons. "I'm a wing player who can make shots.

"My job is to help spread the floor. When defenses collapse on inside players, I get open three-pointers. My job is to make those. I think my skills can really help out this team."

The Sixers had five players who attempted at least 100 three-pointers last season; the most efficient was reserve guard Royal Ivey, who shot 34.2 percent. He opted out of his contract Monday.

With new coach Eddie Jordan installing the Princeton offense, and power forward Elton Brand returning, the Sixers have to get some players who can knock down jump shots.

Brand in particular needs someone to loosen up the interior defense, but it will also help slashers such as Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams to have a reliable shooter to kick the ball back out to on drives to the basket.

Kapono said it is too early to say what his role will be, but he plans to come to training camp intent on earning playing time.

"It's a two-way street," said Kapono, a two-time three-point contest champion at All-Star Weekend. "I'll likely benefit more. I'm not the guy to create my own shot or put the defense in position to have to choose what to do.

"If they try to take away penetration, you have to have balance. You have to have shooting to counter their taking away drives."

Of concern, and there is always a concern, is that Kapono's field goal percentage (.432) and three-point percentage (.428) were both his lowest in the last three seasons.

"To be honest, I just didn't make the shots," Kapono said. "Shooting is such a comfort and rhythm thing.

"My numbers were down, and that is obviously something I want to pick back up. I don't think it was too serious. I'm still confident. I think I'm one of the best out there." *

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