How Do You Solve a Problem Like Andrea?


OK - right up front I have to admit - Andrea’s not the singular problem. Nor is he at times a problem at all. He is however, at one point or another in every game thus far, an extremely visible seven feet of soft defense that cannot be missed.

I probably don’t need to go over any litany of errors. The road, more than anything has not been kind to him. He was standing, off to one side of the backboard, stuck in mud, while Bonner took his awkward dribble all the way from the arc for an embarrassing dunk. He failed to close out on Frye in Phoenix on more than one occasion. He was found standing under the net, and actually behind the backboard, all alone as a spectator, in the games against the Clippers and the Nuggets. And against Utah he just looked extremely lazy when it came to controlling any space and offering some resistance. The man can defend. He can be physical and he can rebound. We’ve seen it. But he does seem incapable of doing all that for a complete game, and when he is looked upon to provide some help defense, then he too often is found taking a breather. It’s as though he finds himself on the weak side, and therefore decides he can just be weak.

And that is going to be where this team stands or falls this season. They are looking to improve based upon their team defense. They cannot afford to have Bargnani be anything but a consistent presence at the very least. They want to protect “the house” right? So what is happening when he puts himself all alone behind the backboard? Is he making sure nobody crawls through the basement window? The team could easily weather the lapses, if it were not for the fact that they need to weather lapses from the perimeter as well. When you have Jose giving his man miles to operate freely, and Bargnani taking a bit of a snooze on rotations, then your team isn’t going to have a fair shot at winning, no matter how many other aspects are going right.

Those moments of minimal resistance, and worse - the times where he just watches - would have to make Sam Mitchell happy to be getting paid not to have to find a fix. Andrea worked out with Moses Malone over the summer? Those moments of invisibility must make him want to not get the word out about that while he muffles his own bewildered guffaws.

Last night, back at home, Andrea played a big part in getting a lead and stretching it out in the first half. To me the biggest difference between his play on the road, and his play at home, is the amount of hustle. And in the first half last night he stayed alert and followed shots instead of standing and watching his man follow the shots and gain position for rebounds. He helped out on the perimeter and quickly rotated back to his guy. And he provided some help down low, coming over from the weak side to provide a fairly commanding presence. That made up for some problems on the perimeter. And it all came with a little bit of hustle.

In the second half, Miami directed their attention toward scoring in the paint, and unfortunately over a short stretch, Andrea played much smaller than his actual size. He was moving slowly and not assuming any kind of defensive position. He was controlling about as much space as Jose, which was about the circumference of an atom. And you just can’t have three other guys scrambling to make up the difference and then get the rebounds as well. Andrea was in full spectator mode again, and that is just like a big green light for any opposing offense. Miami has trouble scoring much more than 80 points in a game, and last night they dropped 64 in the second half. That green light needs to at least turn to amber, and in a hurry.

And yet Bargnani played more minutes than anyone else. To his credit he found some hustle again in the fourth quarter and made his mark on both ends of the court again. I loved how he followed after a Heat shot that was rolling off the rim and tapped it into the mass of collapsing Raptors. That is what team defense and protecting the house is meant to allow for. So there is plenty of hope. This team has not played more than stretches of solid two-way basketball all season long. But there have been promising signs of being able to do so all the same. If Bargnani can be sure to simply hustle for 38 out of 39 minutes then there is not going to be any discussion of him being anything but a strength to this team. If he just can’t make that happen, then Reggie Evans and Amir Johnson are going to have to carry this team at the expense of Bargnani’s minutes, especially on the road where the defense becomes that much more crucial.

So forget the Penne pasta. What’s the meal tonight? Kraft Dinner. And tommorow night, and every night until Christmas. Feed this guy Kraft Dinner until he turns orange. Then at least his head will look like a second basketball and cause confusion, even if he fails to still develop the required hunger full time.

This is a guy that still needs to define himself, and in the process he is such a big part of how this team becomes defined. It’s fair to say that wasn’t going to happen in the first few weeks of the season, but the next few weeks are going be important if they hope to gain the kind of momentum that they are going to need to solidify their identity before going into the playoffs. And of course a lack of momentum could make it tough for them to make the playoffs at all. At this point there’s just no reason for Bargnani to not bring the required energy for full games, and I expect that will be where the team really turns the corner. He is going to be a problem that needs solving for opposing sides on both ends of the floor, rather than a player too easily neutralized or too easily exploited. I’m ready to toss off the negatives I’ve seen so far and mark it up to progressing towards where I see him going, habitually remaining an active presence. Forget the numbers, just stay alert and active as a habit and I’m happy. And I fully expect that to become a habit that opposing teams will grow averse to and want to avoid, as much as Maria Rainer did in regard to the habit meant for her head.

Complete nights from this guy helps to cover for mistakes made by the starters and helps the bench do more than tread water. It gives everyone a chance to find their niche, and it allows all the talent to fit together cohesively. In that way, he has a similar role to that of Shawn Marion’s at the tail end of last season. He benefited from Marion’s energy and athleticism then, and he needs to supply energy and size to control some of the same amount of space for the rest of the team now. Granted there’s some measure of foolish hoping in my feelings that his energy and hustle will steadily increase, and without a doubt, too many letdowns from Bargnani will leave me and many others put off in a bigbig seven foot of blech way. If Bargnani fails this season, then you have to think both starting bigs will be gone, and that leaves a massive hole to fill in the future. And I’m just not ready to bemoan this team’s fate just yet. Looking forward I can still see Bargnani climbing every mountain rather than leading the whole team off a cliff. I mean - at this point there is still plenty of room for hope-filled musicals, and the alternative is just a little too ugly to bear.

13 Comments

bjjs  on November 21st, 2009

Bargnani is disappointing and it’s hard for a lot of people to understand because they see him knocking down threes, they see him block shots and make beautiful drives to the rim.

But what they don’t see is how good a Bargnani/Bosh combo could be if Andrea didn’t let the other team off the hook so easily.

If he fought his ass off trying to get position in the high post, he could have a good look at the basket every time. He would also have position to get Offensive rebs when Bosh misses.

Having both those guys acting like animals on the offensive end would have half the teams in the league waving the white flag before half time.

The game is won in the trenches, just like football. Get in the paint and beat them until they scream for mercy Bargs!

If he imposed his will on the games like Bosh does, Toronto would be a worthy opponent of any team in the East.

LX  on November 21st, 2009

Yeah - I didn’t even really touch on the offensive side of things BJJS. Again - it’s stuff we’ve seen, and then he goes away from it. And hell - even with the threes he misses when wide open, especially on the road.

I honestly preferred how he was playing last season before Sam was fired. Then he was able to drive from along the baseline, or at the top of the key like a monster. Now he’s back to making little moves from around the arc. I hope it’s because he’s putting in a lot of work figuring things out defensively. The room for enormous strides is there. If he doesn’t show them in the second half of this season I’ll have a lot of questions running through my head.

T-saurus  on November 22nd, 2009

Bargs needs to play with more determination and grit during the game. We need to put him in boot camp to toughen him up and introduce him to a world of shit. Or get his girlfriend to dump him, that might work, get him all pissed off and play with intensity. My worry is that he’s gotten too comfortable or complacent now to put in extra effort EVERY night.

.40 Cal Flakes  on November 22nd, 2009

Good read LX. Bargs definitely needs to kick it up a notch with his D, specifically in the paint. He’s shown flashes of what he’s capable of on the defensive end. But therein lies the problem-it’s only been flashes.

superjudge  on November 23rd, 2009

Bargs.
Bosh.

These dudes need to wake up and get intense.

Bargs needs it the most.

mjusunovic  on November 23rd, 2009

I have a simple solution, Trade him! I like Bargs but honestly with him there we have a major soft spot. yes we have a shooter who can make jump shots and occasionally make a nice drive, pass, block, etc, but the problem is its only sometimes. Whenever i watch a game i never know if he will do well or just shut down early… You take Andrea (2009-10 $6,527,491 2010-11 $8,000,000 2011-12 $9,000,000 2012-13 $10,000,000 2013-14 $11,000,000) and combine him with Jose Caldaron Jose Calderon ($8,219,009 $9,000,000 $9,780,993 $10,561,985 ) and another one of our awsome player and a draft pick for Chris Paul $13,758,000 $15,202,590 $16,647,180 $18,091,770. I know it sounds a bit unprobable but think about this, Christ paul is NOT happy in the Hornets, they fired his head coach without asking him, they traded his friend tyson without asking him, him and david west are not happy and he is NEVER going to win over there, the organization will lose him regardless of if they do it now or later he will not stay there past his contract. We get him by playing around with the stuff but you give up andrea, a good shooter, and 7 footer who is better than the one they have now, you give them Caldaron who is still an able body point guard and a first round pick and one other player as a throw in and we get paul. Bosh is then staying for sure you have a team thats able to win and your top 3 guys are Bosh, Paul and Hedo. Makes sense on both sides especially Toronto but teams dont always get what they ask for when they trade a guy (ie: Vince, Gasol, etc)
I know its a long stretch but BC should look into something like this Caldaron is a liability for us, Andrea cant be a center other wise we will always get dominated so we need a good point, Demar, Hedo. Bosh and a big tough center (Rasho, Evans can play it too) and you have a WICKED team in my opinion. Again i knwo its a stretch but it would be nice!

kia  on November 24th, 2009

Bargs is a liability I agree 100%. The real contenders in the league have good solid, orthodox, and fundementally strong centers. Bargs plays like an average shooting guard, or small forward at best. Because of this we are at a serious disadvantage at times. Who cares if he can score there’s alot of members of the raptors that would score more than him given the same number of opportunities. Bargs is a liability because we’re lacking a true center. Which is the most important position on any team along with the point guard.

kia  on November 24th, 2009

I also have to point out that while Calderone is not the best defensive player. At least he’s a solid point guard with an amazing shooting percentage, high basketball IQ, aggresive and plays with a lot of heart.

Andrea, makes tooooo many stupid mistakes. A liability, to say the least.

moremilk  on November 25th, 2009

I guess the only way to really solve it is to finally realize that it wasn’t a problem to begin with …

•LX•  on November 25th, 2009

Don’t miss my point at the end here. I’m suggesting that the problem gets turned on its head soon enough. Maybe it’s just hoping, but it’s also to early to say that it’s just not going to work. Bargnani could end up being a problem that opposing teams need to solve more than Triano does. There’s not a heck of a lot of time for that to happen, but he could prove to be a good fit yet.

pimpery  on November 26th, 2009

enough years in the league. Alot of defense is about desire and toughness and you cant teach a player either. Bargs doesnt have it and i dont think he ever will.

jeff_maloy  on December 1st, 2009

trading bargs?
it’s true, he’s playn’ such a limp bisquit, but i guess the problem is that he’s not a center!
i see other problems: calderon loves too much CB4 and does just pick and rolls with him, or alley oop for DD. Watchin suns vs. raps, i was impressed by nash coz he gets his teammates flyn’. jose look for just for the last pass. i prefer jack or belinelli.
about the defence: do u remember garbajosa? raps at the begining of the season need someone like him, not Hedo (i think he’s a great player, by the way) and Reggie is not enogh.
Bargs grabs more rebounds when CB4 is out, and his defence is tougher.

jeff_maloy  on December 1st, 2009

i’m watching the game. i’d pay to get out bosh and calderon. they’re losing the game. damn it!

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