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Old 02-03-2012, 11:46 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Raptors Secret to Bargnani's success

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Sprawled across an oversize couch in a rumpus room tucked behind the Raptors’ ACC training facility, Andrea Bargnani is doing something weird.

He’s laughing.

On the court, in front of cameras and anywhere there’s a crowd, Bargnani wears an expressionless mask that his critics have spent six years trying to interpret.

The least charitable have decided he isn’t grinning or grimacing or generally clowning because he doesn’t care.

And he doesn’t care, but not in the way they mean.

When you get him in a room alone, he is an entirely different person. He is solicitous and engaging. He is more articulate in his second language because he can focus on a single conversation, rather than several scattershot ones. For someone who’s been kicked so often, he is amazingly open.

This version of Bargnani — the real one — is a lot of fun, which you’ll agree is a word not usually associated with the cornerstone of the Raptors franchise.

He knows what people say about the way he carries himself in public. There is an explanation, which is presented without the slightest hint of an excuse.

“I grew up with a really tough European coach (current Lakers assistant Ettore Messina),” Bargnani says.

Messina still figures largely in his imagination. The Italian had him at Benetton Treviso for three crucial years between the ages of 18 and 20. No mentor has had a greater impact. While his game has changed since, Bargnani’s demeanour was cemented as a teenager.

“All the stuff you can do here in college, the celebrating, that’s not allowed. If you do something like this” — and here he mimes the familiar gesture of pounding a fist to the chest — “you’re done. That’s really, really bad. So I got used to not doing it. I was very close to crying more than one time when I was young with that coach.”

Now he prefers hardcourt imperturbability, while still allowing himself the odd outburst.

“I do what I feel, not because people ask me to do this,” Bargnani says, holding his hands over his head and doing a strange chicken dance.

Do not ask Andrea Bargnani to dance. He doesn’t like that.

This is the treacherous shore to Bargnani that a series of NBA coaches have run up against and foundered — he will not do what you ask him to just because you asked. He wants to be included in the discussion.

Before Bargnani was drafted first overall, he took one of the personality tests that is administered to most hopefuls in order to reassure would-be employers they are not flakes or kooks. Shortly after that draft, GM Bryan Colangelo raved about Bargnani’s performance.

“(The testers) said, ‘Out of all the athletes we’ve profiled, we’ve never seen anything like this,’ ” Colangelo told ESPN. One of the things the profile showed was that Bargnani does not care what other people think of him.

Here is a case in point: Bargnani is the only man in the Italian diaspora who tells people he can’t stand watching soccer.

“Zero. No interest. It’s soooo boring.”

Kelly: Andrea Bargnani loosens up, reveals secrets to success - thestar.com
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