This is a couple days late, but whatever. Here are Bargnani’s highlights against Greece.
- Offensive rebound, followed by dunk
- One hard dribble to the left, turn around jumper
- Clean rebound, rather uncontested
- Clean rebound, uncontested
- Rebound falls to him
- Good shot contest, rebounds
- Drives in the lane, finishes with left
- Drives from three, to the right, finishes at the rim
- Rebounds a FT
- Passes to Gallinari for a jam
- Grabs rebound without having position
- Hits three
- One dribble pull-up from elbow, gets fouled too
- Drive for baseline jam, no help
- Gets rebound, man on back didn’t contest
What did we learn? Bargnani’s a pretty good player against Greece in Olympic qualifying. Before you call me a “hater”, let it be said that I’d look at any performance in any international competition in the same light. Bargnani was impressive, but it’s not the first time he’s “dominated” international competition only to underwhelm in the league. Remember this and this?
The great positive here isn’t his performance, but that he’s playing competitive basketball and not drifting too far away from the game. My take on him is set in concrete now, I don’t expect him to get worse or improve, I don’t expect him to average 10 rebounds a game and become an average defender, nor do I expect his scoring average to plummet. He’s not going to be a superstar, or even a star, but he will, barring injury, have a long NBA career on account of his scoring capacity. He might even get to an All-Star game once or twice if things go his way.
He’s going to be Duane Casey’s most interesting project, isn’t he? Casey will try where Mitchell and Triano failed: getting Bargnani to play hard, and play defense. For all of Sam Mitchell’s shortcomings, he actually had the balls to ruffle some feathers and tweak Bargnani’s setup by bringing him off the bench. Overall, the results were mixed, the spike in Bargnani’s performance after O’Neal was traded eventually normalized, and he found his place between being spectacular 15% of the time, crap 50% of the time, and so-so 35%. Jay Triano didn’t even try. Under Triano, Bargnani did not come off the bench for even one game. I’m not saying the bench is the answer to an underperforming player, however it does serve as an indicator of how committed Triano was to Bargnani, despite the team’s piss-poor defensive record.
You couldn’t quite put your finger on it, but you knew when Chris Bosh’s time in Toronto was up. The same for Vince Carter and the same for Damon Stoudamire, there’s this feeling you get which tells you that a player’s contribution to the franchise has maxed out. There’s nothing more to be had here, that maybe it’s better for both parties to move on, acknowledge that it wasn’t a good fit for whatever reason and pursue other interests. It’s not a rejection of a player or a team, it’s an understanding that life is short and time is best not wasted, especially considering the length of NBA careers. It might be Bargnani’s time to go, not even for the betterment of the Raptors, but so he can realize his potential in a more apt setting.
Move ahead to the 2012-13 season, and you’ll have Jonas Valanciunas playing center, and Bargnani potentially moving to the power forward. How much time will that experiment be given? How many permutations will it take to finally find that elusive fit for Bargnani where everything falls in place in perfect harmony? The quest for this Utopian scenario could cost the Raptors even more time, and if any lesson is to be learned from the history painted by Chris Bosh, it’s one that speaks to how dangerous it is to continually back the wrong horse.