Good Riddence, Bargnani.

The rebuilding project started two years ago when Bosh left, but needs to be set in complete motion. Firing Casey wouldn’t make sense since he’s building a sustainable program instead of trying to save his own job. You can’t fault a man who stands by what he believes in, and Casey was one of the most sought after assistant coaches after he won a title with Dallas in 2011. A coach can only do so much but in the end needs the right personnel to match his vision for the team. Lowry, Derozan, Ross, Amir, Valanciunas, Davis, Anderson and Fields fit the mold of those types of guys; athletic individuals who play both ways and buy into the culture of the team.  These guys play fluid as a unit when they’re together and look like a completely different team when it’s a combination of them. However, if this team is going to go anywhere, they need to say goodbye to one guy.

I’m not saying Bargnani lacks talent. Coming into the 2006 draft, his stock was high as the next Nowitzki. I remember hoping the raptors to select Roy or Gay, especially after the way both performed during March madness. In retrospect, the only players I would have taken are Gay and Aldridge (I don’t fault the Raps for not selecting Rondo because his stock wasn’t high coming into the draft, he’s just gotten so much better playing with Garnett, Pierce, etc.). Drafts are crap-shoot so I really don’t blame Colangelo for taking him. Throughout the years his averages have been…

2006-07: 11.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG

2007-08: 10.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG

2008-09: 15.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG

2009-10: 17.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG

2010-11: 21.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG

2012-13 (so far): 19.5 PPG, 5.5 PPG

It’s easy to notice his increase in numbers every year. With more playing time, he’s afforded more opportunity to stack his stats. Analysts often compare Bargs to Dirk, due to their ability to shoot, their height, and their European backgrounds. If anything we should compare him to the departed Bosh, someone who has grown and been nurtured in the exact same environment, afforded the same coaches, and played with the same teammates.

2003-04: 11.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg

2004-05: 16.8ppg, 8.9 rpg

2005-06: 22.5 ppg, 9.2 rpg

2006-07: 22.6 ppg, 10.7 rpg

2007-08: 22.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg

2008-09: 22.7 ppg, 10 rpg

2009-10: 24 ppg, 10.8

It’s easy to see that Bosh took his giant leap and cemented his case as one of the elite players in the league during his third season. In comparison, Bargnani was able to increase his stats in his third year as well. However, with more afforded minutes, at an average of 7.5 more minutes per game, it’s safe to say his numbers are inflated. Nevertheless the talent is there. There aren’t many big men who can do what he does offensively. He’s just never been able to piece it all together for an extended period of time. It’s the fault of the Raptor organization and its fans for putting him in a situation where he would fail or not be ready for. And that fault starts with one man.

Bryan Colangelo, President and General Manager of the Toronto Raptors, is probably the main reason Bargnani is still on our team. Coming to the organization in Feb 2006, selecting Bargnani was seen as his first signature move. It’s human nature to believe in your own and grow a certain level of emotional attachment after being together for a long period of time. They say on average, you stay friends with people longer than you should due to the amount of years you’ve put into the relationship. This bond between Bargnani and Colangelo is no different. Add to this a general tendency that people of his position and power (CEOs, presidents, managers) are more likely to be stubborn in their ways, it’s easy to see why he hasn’t relented from making this work with Bargnani. So the million dollar question is, “Is Colangelo at fault?”.. Think about it, should he be? At the time when he came, he was anointed as a saviour and was given the title as president and general manager of the team. Why shouldn’t he feel superior to his peers or not think that his case is different compared to any other situation in the history of professional basketball. I think this is a case of Colangelo being put in a position of failure and having unattainable expectations. When rebuilding the correct way usually consist of blowing up your team and obtaining high draft picks, BC chose to instead retool on the fly, hoping temporary bandages such as (i.e. Jermaine O’Neal) would fix a long-term problem. They haven’t and everything is crashing down right now. Whether or not we give up our lottery pick to Oklahoma this upcoming draft, the rebuilding needs to start now, and starts with divorcing Bargnani.

If we traded Bargnani, I don’t think there would be a drop off, and if there is, it wouldn’t be that substantial. I believe Ed Davis, who is finally  receiving the consistent minutes he’s earned, is  coming into his own as a starting-calibre “Power” forward. I stress the word power because Bargnani was always considered a stretch four. The idea of that position has never worked unless you pair that type of player with All-Nba talent (i.e. Dwight Howard & Rashard Lewis, Shaq/Duncan & Horry, Jordan/Pippen & Kukoc). We’ve never had that type of talent paired with Bargnani, therefore it’s easy to see why he’s yet to experience substantial success at the NBA level. If we were to pair Davis with Jonas, we’d have a more conventional pairing in the frontcourt and could potentially have two players who would average close to 10 boards per game. This is a necessary addition by subtraction as it’d give Davis a chance to shine. He’ll go through his mental lapses, but he’s a player who wants it badly. I never got that from Bargnani after all these years watching him and i doubt it’ll change

For now the future looks bleak due to our record (5-19 as of Dec. 16/12). This is a pivotal year for the franchise and as I look through the team, Bargnani clearly stands out as not one of us. It’s easy to notice his general detachment from the team during this season. The offense is usually left stagnant when the ball is in hands. Often, when he chucks up threes, he’s rarely takes into account if a teammate is in a good rebounding position. This leads to a lack of fluidity between him and the rest of the Raptors. The disconnect is clearly evident as it seems his teammates rarely know when he’s going to hoist up a shot or not.

I’m not sure trading Bargnani would return us anything substantial. His trade value has dropped considerably this year due to inconsistent play, a drop off in stats, the team’s record, and his current injury. I do believe Colangelo has enough self-awareness to see Bargnani’s lack of positive effect on the rest of the team, and is quietly awaiting his former #1 draft pick’s return to eventually trade him just before the trade deadline to a pseudo-playoff threatening team.

From there, the christening will begin in handing over the team and its future to Lowry, Demar and Jonas, with Ross, Davis, Amir, Anderson, Fields, and Klieza flanking as key members of the team moving forward. In order to finish .500 for the season, the Raps would have to go 36-22 (.750) the rest of the way, definitely not attainable but highly unlikely. Although Bargnani is a talented individual, i would never be scarred to trade him. One of the biggest fears in trading a player is watching them tear up the league with their new team (i.e. VC in New Jersey). I just don’t see that happening with Andrea. I don’t see him circling the date he would be playing the Raptors again; I don’t see the competitive vengeance in his personality. And you know what, that’s fine. Maybe he’s happy where he is and what’s he’s accomplished (starting for an NBA team, being the focal point of the offense, making 10million a year, dating models, etc.) Any other normal human being would feel more than accomplished doing what he has done in his professional career. I feel society and team fan bases in general place unreachable expectations on certain players, instead of just accepting them for who they are.

ESPN’s columnist, Bill Simmons, dissects a parallel situation when describing the legendary Bill Russell’s take on dealing with teammate, Sam Jones, whose reluctance to become great often frustrated Russell. In his article titled, “The Kobe Question” Simmons states, “Russell’s book covers one example with an enlightening section on Sam Jones, one of the league’s first great scoring guards but someone who feared the responsibility of being great every night. Sam couldn’t handle the pressure; the burden was too big, like having the same term paper hanging over your head 100 times per year. That drove Russell crazy. Eventually, he learned to accept that they just weren’t wired the same way. Sam didn’t puke before every big game. He didn’t measure his happiness by the success or failure of his basketball team. But he also happened to be a phenomenally gifted offensive player, someone who loved taking and making pressure shots. Sam’s laconic demeanor worked against him being a legendary player, but for big moments? It was perfect. You could always go to Sam when it mattered. More often than not, Sam came through.” (http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8724362/the-kobe-question).

As fans, we just need to accept Bargnani for who he is. We want him to play with passion, be able to put the Raps on his back during key moments, and buy into the system. But that’s just not who he is. I believe Bargnani has completely maxed out his potential and just doesn’t want to be great. I don’t see that fire that is clearly evident in the likes of Demar, Lowry and Jonas. So why expect more from someone who just won’t ever get there. As raptor fans, we should just smarten up, deal with what we have, and move on when we’re ready. Hopefully, BC is able to do the same.

Demar = the future.

Happiness can exist only in acceptance. – George Orwell

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