I spent a better part of the day transcribing some of the interviews that were conducted. You can read them in the forums: Bargnani, Johnson, Bayless and DeRozan. There’s also the Ed Davis and Jose Calderon videos. and There was a lot of talk about learning and growing together, and the positives of a 60-loss season were being extracted as best they could. The players were positive for the most part and viewed this season as a necessary growing pain in the evolution of a franchise. Jerryd Bayless made a direct comparison to what a lot of fans see as the ideal path to success – the OKC and Portland models. Amidst the eulogies there was an underlying theme – that this team needs to improve defensively. As much as that is a no-brainer and completely obvious if you watch one quarter of Raptors basketball, it was nice to hear it coming out of a player’s mouth.
Andrea Bargnani took some veiled shots from Amir Johnson who classified the need for a “legit center” as an off-season task, the same with DeRozan who was seeking a “veteran big down there that knows how to play in the paint”, clearly descriptions different than Bargnani’s game. The most interesting piece of the pie came from Bargnani himself, who stated: “I do things that are more complicated than rebounds and defence”.
I missed this rather sensational comment from the interview video and was doubting the people who claimed he said it. It turns out that the Raptors PR team edited the statement out, probably knowing just how ridiculously stupid it was, and the light it would shed on Bargnani. Unfortunately for them, the internet doesn’t work that way. I don’t know if Bargnani meant to slight his teammates by making a statement like that, or whether it was a manifestation of his middling command of the English language. Scoring a basket could be seen as being “complicated” than getting a rebound, but the connotations emanating from a statement like that are not good for the brotherhood that Amir Johnson referred to. In my opinion, what he meant to say was that since he can do a complicated thing like scoring, defense and rebounding shouldn’t be a problem. Really, it was more self-indicting than malicious.
Of importance was Bargnani stating that he had received no assurances about his future with the Raptors, a sharp contrast from years past when Colangelo has always reaffirmed Bargnani’s status as part of the core. Ending with Bargnani, I get the feeling that he knows he’s had a bad year, and is deflecting blame. He spoke about how the defensive problems were “50-50″ between coach and players, how his natural position is power forward and how it’s “always been” that way. The most ironic part about his comments was when he cited the importance of teamwork in the context of players being unable to guard one-on-one in today’s NBA, and how help defense is paramount. Note to Bargnani: You are supposed to be the help defense.
Right now he’s easy pickings and I’m done firing my shots, but really, that comment about him doing things more complicated than rebounds and defense is the worst thing a player can say. Oh wait, Michael Grange just started firing his shots. No offense to Grange, but RR (and other Raptors sites) have been pointing out the major problems with Bargnani’s game for years, so really Mike, welcome to 2008.
The off-season regimens have been laid out. Bargnani’s going to stay in Rome and play in the Olympic qualifiers, hire a coach and work with him. DeRozan is focused on extending his range, getting stronger, and improving his ball-handling. When asked whether he’s looking to be the “the man”, he simply said that he’ll be the best player he can be and wherever that takes him is fine with him. He spoke about having a “chip on his shoulder” because of the lack of attention he received last year, and said that it fuels him. Jerryd Bayless has no basketball planned for the summer. Interesting to note that the players cannot use Raptors facilities during the lockout. Some reporter kept on asking the players whether they had “saved money” for the lockout to which all of them responded, “I’ll be OK” but really thought, “You dumbass, do you know what I make?”.
Overall, the mood wasn’t what you’d expect of a 60-loss team, the youth was used to justify the record and exonerate a lot of the players of their current shortcomings, in the belief that the upward trajectory of the team is what should be evaluated, not it’s present state. I’m sure the architect of this situation will be speaking with us soon, and judging by complacency in the air, it should be a softer interview than years past.