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Old 11-26-2012, 11:51 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Grange: Bargnani, a relationship on the rocks

There's also a video of Grange talking about this if you click the link.

If the relationship between fans and a particular athlete is really just that -- a relationship, with all the ebbs and flows and ups and downs the word implies -- it's safe to say that Andrea Bargnani and the Toronto Raptors loyalists are going through a bit of a rough patch right now.

Well, that might be understating it. Vastly. The Toronto Raptors fans, long-suffering, passionate and determined to see only the best in the Dominic McGuire's, Ben Uzoh's and Julian Wright's that have dotted their club's starting lineup at various points the past three years, have pretty much had it with Andrea Bargnani, the enigmatic Roman chucker.

Trade him? There is no doubt a significant number of Raptors fans that think that would be too kind. Are the lions still wandering the Coliseum back home? Can we drop him in there maybe?

The problem with the relationship between Raptors fans and the franchise's only No.1 pick is that the best moment between them may have been when he was presented with a Toronto jersey on stage in New York City and he flashed his slightly goofy, lop-sided grin for the first time.

Right then everything seemed possible. The Raptors had Bryan Colangelo running the show and Bargnani's 47-35 rookie season suggested that the future was wide open.

Since then Bargnani's been someone you badly want to believe in, but so often lets you down. Maddeningly, he seems immune to external motivation -- coddling, threatening, begging and cussing have all been tried, none of them have resulted in Bargnani turning in more of the masterpieces he's capable as opposed to the half-hearted finger paintings he turns in so often. It's disappointing at the best of times, but eventually the anger sets in.

Such as Sunday.

The Raptors lost another heart-crusher in a season in which half of the 11 so far could qualify for that description. Losing in double-overtime to the red-hot San Antonio Spurs is hardly cause for shame, but the Raptors have already lost in triple-overtime at home this season and have three other losses by a combined four points, so the moral victory column is quite full, thank you.

The real wins have been few and far between and with seven of their next eight on the road beginning Tuesday night with a back-to-back against Houston and Memphis, there's no reason to expect them to start rolling in.

Bargnani is forever just a dark cloud away from being a lightning rod and Sunday's loss had all the ingredients. Bargnani hoisted 19 of the shots Raptors fans have become all too familiar with -- the quick threes; the pull-up jumpers to nowhere; the bambi-legged drives that roll off. He made just two shots. Two more would have still meant a crappy game, but it might have been enough for the Raptors to get a win they were dying for.
"The shot was terrible today," Bargnani said. "I don't think that my shot has been that bad in my NBA career. What can you do?"
D'Antoni also likes big men who can shoot in order to maximize floor spacing. Bargnani -- in theory -- can shoot. D'Antoni speaks Italian. Bargnani is Italian. Gasol could benefit from being the centre piece of an offence again as he tries to secure one more big contract. Would a package featuring Bargnani and Jose Calderon be enough to pry away Gasol and back-up point guard Steve Blake?

The ESPN trade machine says it works. Bargnani has two years and $20 million left on his deal, Calderon is in the last year of a deal that pays him $10 million this season. The Raptors would take $23 million back as each Blake and Gasol have another after this one left.

For the record Colangelo has no comment on such a possibility, or even if he's getting the itch to move his signature draft pick. Off the record Colangelo has no comment on such a possibility or even if he's getting the itch to move his signature pick.

But Colangelo is not shy to trade anything, and ever since he pronounced Bargnani the "enigma of all enigmas" -- and that was after one of his good seasons -- it's reasonable to say that he'd move the non-franchise player for the right deal.

Should he? No one's going to write essays about how Bargnani is or should be untouchable. But like any relationship, it's always best to examine the good and the bad with a calm, cool head.

Bargnani's first 14 games have been below his standards, but does his gruesome showing Sunday and a slow start overall mean more than the last three seasons and nearly 200 games?

Over that stretch Bargnani has been pretty productive. There are only four players in the NBA that have averaged at least 19 points, shot 45 per cent from the field, 35 per cent from three and averaged at least 5.7 rebounds a game, Bargnani's line from 2009-10 to 2011-12. The others are Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Love.

Granted, Bargnani's barely on the list (Durant and Nowitzki are much bigger scorers and Love gets more rebounds in a game than Bargnani does in three) but it's also worth noting that Bargnani is paid $10 million a season, compared with the average of $18-million the other three are getting.

So before Raptors fans swear that it's over between them and the big Roman, what's a better bet, that Bargnani will continue to struggle the way he has in the early going this season, or that at the end of the year he'll end up averaging something close to 20 points and six rebounds a game on 45 per cent shooting, as he has the past three years?
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