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Old 11-30-2012, 03:58 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Post Cathal Kelly: Andrea Bargnani needs to be sent packing

Watch him have a monster game tonight lol


By Cathal Kelly

It’s not fighting that ends relationships. That happens when one partner decides it’s not worth arguing any more.

We’ve reached that point with Andrea Bargnani. No amount of verbal lashing will move this man. He’ll absorb everything this city flings his way and shrug. “Criticism has two sides,” Bargnani said last year. “Most of the time it just comes here …” — pointing at one ear — “ … and goes out here” — pointing at the other.

He is a stump. A talented stump, but a stump nonetheless — immovable, unchangeable.

The crucial distinction here is this: With a limited sampling of Kyle Lowry still available, Bargnani remains the most dependable offensive option on the Raptors roster. He is a star, but not the right star for this squad.

“I like our team. I like our pieces,” coach Dwane Casey said Friday. “Sometimes, I don’t like the way they execute.”

While he will not have been thinking specifically about Bargnani as he said that — unlike the restive fan base, it wouldn’t be Casey’s way to shift the blame onto one man — it’s hard not to read some criticism of his frustrating indispensable into that comment. Bargnani is the one who needs to become something other than a stretch-4 for this team to win, and won’t. Not can’t. Won’t.

Casey has changed up in recent games, giving Bargnani multiple touches to start a game. Sometimes (as in Detroit, where he scored 34), it works. Sometimes (as against San Antonio, when he went 2-for-19), it implodes.

The other expected contributions — rebounding and defensive toughness — have reverted to pre-2011 norms. Those should be constants, and they are. Almost constantly disregarded.

No bench commitment to pot-stirring will make this soufflé rise. That’s up to the player. Bargnani remains the bull who refuses to see red.

Despite all the talk about his slow growth, the Italian’s time in Toronto has worked like a one-time-only stimulus.

The nadir after 16 games remains 2005. That year started out 1-15, prompting the arrival of Bryan Colangelo on a charger provided from the league stables.

His signature move remains taking Bargnani first overall the next spring, and maybe that’s the problem. The men who run sports teams aren’t conditioned to climb down from bold stands. You show too much of your back while you’re doing that. Colangelo remains a peripheral figure this year, seldom heard from and nearly never seen.

“We don’t discuss our intentions concerning player movement or acquisition,” Colangelo said Friday to the suggestion of moving Bargnani now. Like nearly all his missives, it came via email. There are few topics he’s comfortable getting into a give-and-take about right now.

The club bounced immediately after Bargnani’s arrival, and has since begun a slow, inexorable decline — the only marked constant of which is his presence.

Now the Raptors are quick-stepping into an off-season disaster — one in which they neither make the playoffs, nor reap a lottery pick for their trouble.

Based on the current course, this ship is scheduled to launch next year with the same key personnel that drove it onto the rocks during this voyage.

If the Raptors were a sitcom, they’d be Gilligan’s Island — plenty of different types on that crew, too, but crucially lacking the guy who knows how to patch a hole in a boat.

Jose Calderon will be gone soon (and that’s only necessary, not any sort of cause for celebration. Toronto could learn a pan-sporting lesson in mourning the loss of old soldiers). Bargnani should be, too.

It’s not clear what’s out there for him. Despite the stop-gap addition of Mickael Pietrus, what this club could really use is a dominating small forward.

Rudy Gay? Not with the way Memphis has started. Denver’s Andre Iguodala? Another pipe dream. Maybe Luol Deng, whose contract looks more digestible by the day, could be gotten, but the water-treading Bulls will want to wait on Derrick Rose’s return before taking that flyer.

The more you think about it, the fashionable suggestion — parceling someone with Bargnani for the Lakers’ Pau Gasol — makes sense.

It may not be from a competitive perspective; assuming Gasol is healthy (capital “A” assume), does his lumpen paint presence stunt the development of Jonas Valanciunas?

But that swap certainly works from the vantage point of optics. After so many years of disappointment, the Raptors should care about laying down bread crumbs to departing fans.

We can all agree that something about this Raptor team needs to change. Moving chairs in the executive suites won’t make any difference at this point. There’s only one place change matters.

The easiest, most potentially impactful way to do that is let go of Bargnani. Not give up on him — he’s still got stardom in him — but admit that it’s not going to happen here.

It might even be fairer to him, if you’ve got an altruistic bent. However much the fans perceive him as removed and aloof, Bargnani was never that. He cares. He just doesn’t care enough to change. In another walk of life, we’d admire his stubbornness and singularity of vision. But we don’t work on teams, and so it is Bargnani’s fatal flaw.

Pat him on the back, wish him luck and start over. As much as we see these sorts of things in binary — winners and losers — there is a way for both Bargnani and the Raptors to win something this year. That’s by agreeing to an amicable divorce.
Andrea Bargnani needs to be sent packing: Kelly - thestar.com
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