Bargnani The Latest Piece In Colangelo’s Long-Term Plan

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July 8, 2009
Mike Ulmer -

Maybe you know the old joke. Its about a veterinarian/taxidermist. His business card reads Either Way You Get Your Dog Back.

That ditty crossed my mind at Tuesdays presser for Andrea Bargnani.

Bargnani could have been a free agent next season. Instead he is married to the Raptors for five years at a salary, the papers say, of $50 million.

Suddenly, though certainly not by accident, the Raptors present a formidable logjam of salaried talent as star forward Chris Bosh considers his working address into the next decade. Its quite a coup when you consider it.

Jose Calderon has four more years. When they announce Hedo Turkoglu, perhaps as soon as Wednesday, the Raps will formalize what has been universally reported as a five-year-deal.

It works down like this. Boshs main criteria has always been the ability to play on a winning team. Last year, the Raptors won 33 games and so it seemed obvious to all that the Raptors ability to keep Bosh was in jeopardy.

But in extending Bargnani, adding Turkoglu (fine, allegedly adding Turkoglu), hitching Calderon to the wagon and drafting a promising swingman in DeMar DeRozan, GM Bryan Colangelo has pieced together what seems to be his most promising roster. A corresponding turnaround could offer plenty of inducement to keep Bosh.

Clearly there will be others out there discussing extensions, was the coy way Colangelo worded it.

But even if Bosh decides to play elsewhere, he leaves a lot of talent. Its not like the sport collapses in Toronto if Bosh heads out. That in turn, gives the Raptors a better posture from which to negotiate. If we remember any acrid lesson from high school it is this one: nothing prompts rejection faster than neediness.

The principals in Bargnanis decision to remain here are too numerous to name. They are the people who called his name, who didnt boo when he regressed in season two and the pedestrians who greeted him in the citys Italy District as he frequented his favorite eateries. Fifty million bucks doesnt hurt, but Bargnani insists he has found the motherlode in Toronto.

I felt very good for day one, he said. The fans were incredible. There is a huge Italian community that has been really good to me. This is the city where I want to play if you are talking about NBA. Its the best city for me in North America.

The Raptors paid for Bargnanis potential. The seven-footer, the first overall draft choice in 2006, finished with averages of 15.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 31.4 minutes played last season in what was his best year.

The firing of coach Sam Mitchell and installation of Jay Triano Dec. 3 also cleared the way to Bargnanis return. Stuck on the bench as Mitchell searched for a winning combination, Triano inherited a team with, as it turned out, no real claim on playoff status. That meant he could deliver playing time by the truckload and Bargnani soon was receiving plenty.

Jay was very important for my growth, Bargnani said. He gave me the opportunity. My minutes were not dependent on my mistakes. I was playing 35 to 40 minutes anyway."

Bargnani started in place of Jermaine ONeal on New Years Eve against Denver and scored 26 points while adding five blocks. Bargnani began to take the ball to the hoop enthusiastically when confronted by slower and smaller players, of which there are many. He remained a threat from the arc and solidified his low post play. The Raptors dealt ONeal for Shawn Marion. Bargnani, meanwhile, is a player you do not let get away especially with a host of teams next year sitting on war chests for the greatest free agent class ever.

The pick and roll opportunities with Turkoglu will delight hoopheads with the six-foot-10 Turkoglu working with the seven-foot Bargnani.

Hes a great guy, I know him, Bargnani said. I played against him on the national team. He can play the low post position, he can rebound and play pick and roll. Hell be a great fit on our team.