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Old 01-03-2012, 04:26 PM   #1 (permalink)

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Default A new beast in the east!

So far Bargnani is embracing the challenges set forth by his new coach, and is even happy to see a better defensive approach being employed.

“He’s going to make us work, that’s for sure, so we’re working pretty hard,” Bargnani says of Casey. “Work ethic is really important, and we’re putting in a lot of hard work on the defensive end. Defense is the focus of everything that we do, and that’s good because from my point of view, last year we were one of the worst defensive teams. The one thing we have to improve is our defense, so that’s what we need to do. I’m happy that we’re going to work to improve that, and we already have. We’re already better now than we were last year.”

More than ever before, Bargnani understands that a better defensive approach can make a huge difference for the Raptors as they look to redefine who they are as a team.

“We have to play with the same intensity every game. We have to try to have the mental toughness on the defensive end. That will give us the opportunity to compete . . .the defense will give us the ability to play against everybody, not just our offense. Against Indiana we only scored 11 points in the first quarter, but in the fourth quarter, against a very good team, we were there and we had the opportunity to win the game. We didn’t make it, but we were right there.”

Since then the Raptors have been in games midway through the fourth quarter before big pushes by the Dallas Mavericks and Orlando Magic put them away. After four games Bargnani is showing he might just evolve into the player the Raptors hoped he would become after Chris Bosh last. He poured in 30 points in Dallas and 28 in Orlando, grabbing seven rebounds in each contest and showing a marked improvement on the defensive end. Bargnani admits he learned a lot from Bosh, but is also quick to point out that Bosh wasn’t exactly a championship player for the Raptors.

“Chris is a great player, but we never won anything with him. I respect Chris a lot and I learned many things from him, but it’s not like we were coming from a championship run, or we were first in the Eastern Conference before he left. It’s not like Cleveland when they lost LeBron. They were the best team in the NBA and we didn’t even make the playoffs. We still need a winning mentality, and it’s not like we had one when Chris was here and now we have to rebuild. We never had it, and we have to get a winning mentality before we can hope to be a good team. I’m not saying Chris was bad. He was an All-Star and a great player, but it’s not like we were a great team and now we’re not any more.”

Bargnani getting some US love baby!
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