Bargnani the enigma, can he redeem himself in New York?

Bargnani the enigma, can he redeem himself in New York?

For the seven years he has been on the Raptors, Bargnani has been a constant disappointment. He was picked first overall and was touted to be the next Dirk Nowitzki. And some thought he may have reached that level.

He came nowhere near close.

He had showed some flashes of potential, particularly during a span of 13 games in the 2011-12 season when he was a man transformed. Unfortunately he never came close to playing at that level ever again.

I’ve been a supporter of his since the day he donned a Raptors uniform and up until last season when I just couldn’t take his bipolar play. It was frustrating that there was this player that had the potential to be an all star and never tried seizing it. Naturally when the big man was traded away it was a time for celebration in Toronto. Only the truly devoted had kept their loyalties with him, and I was not one of them.

I write this because although Bargnani has left me flustered I wouldn’t doubt it if he started playing like a beast in New York. I’m not saying it’s a guarantee, but if it does happen, it’s not something that came out of the blue. Why didn’t it happen in the seven years he spent in Toronto? The twist behind it is so ironic it’s almost tragic.

European basketball is so different from the NBA that they are almost different sports. It’s more team oriented in the Euro-league while in the NBA there’s more star power. Although what may be the biggest difference is that the coaches have full autonomy over their team in Europe because they’re the superstars. In the NBA the coaches – unless you’re Gregg Popovich – are at the mercy of their stars and GM. The best players on each team are who the team is constructed around and not the coach.

Bargnani played for Ettore Messina and David Blatt, two highly respected coaches in the Euro-league. It was under their tenure when Bargnani first rose to fame. With his ability to stretch it out from deep and shoot from anywhere on the court he was of course compared to Dirk Nowitzki. Now Raptors fans, I know you all want to move on and forget that he was ever associated with this organization, but remember the last time he played and how lethargic he was, how uninterested he looked to be on the court, how much he pissed you off when he missed a rotation or rebound and shrugged it off with a slacked jaw?

How he played before the Raptors and for the Raptors are like two different players. He played with energy, but most of all he played like he cared.

Did that Bargnani play with anywhere near the same energy and intensity as this guy?

How he played before the Raptors and for the Raptors are like two different players. He played with energy, but most of all he played like he cared.

Back when he was drafted the big selling point of Bargnani was that he scored highly on the calipher test, which was a measure of how well a player handled pressure. They never had a player like Bargnani ever before. He showed that pressure situations, which wracked the nerves of most players, were indifferent to him. Nothing fazed Bargnani.

This backfired horribly for the Raptors because he faced pressure situations – and lots of them. He didn’t care about criticism and whatever went in one ear went out the other.

It’s safe to say that he’s not driven at all. But I don’t think that’s entirely true.

Watching his Benetton Treviso videos he played like a man driven. He hustled hard and played his heart out. And in those 13 games with the Raptors he was playing with passion. What changed in that 13 games was the coach. Dwane Casey was brought in, after having won a championship as an assistant with Dallas, to bring Bargnani along as the next Dirk. He was touted to be a defensive-minded old school ‘my way or the highway’ throwback coach. And it was working for Bargnani, for a little bit. Then he went back to being lazy again.

Hopeless cause? That was my assumption, but then I thought – what could have made Casey change in those 13 games? And then it led me to the culprit of the problem, Bryan Colangelo.

It’s no secret how much Colangelo treasured his first overall pick that he interfered with his coaches decisions at times when it came to Bargnani. This actually isn’t too out of the norm. Lots of GMs are controlling and want to see the roster they assembled executed the way they envisioned it to be. The problem that this relates to Bargnani is that because of his extremely high caliper test scores that shows how much he doesn’t give a flying bleep about anything, when he doesn’t care for something, he won’t care, at all. He likes playing for coaches that can command his respect and he didn’t get that in Toronto thanks to Bryan Colangelo.

He couldn’t respect his coaches when they were bending over to a higher power. Casey was to Bargnani at first a man to be respected, and then Colangelo over time dabbled his fingers into his coaches decisions. Raptors fans always cracked jokes that Bargnani was Colangelo’s golden boy and illegitimate child. What’s funny was that it’s that exact same reason that Bargnani chose not to play with passion. He didn’t give it his all because the coach couldn’t exercise his full will on his team with a hand always disrupting the decisions he made, and in Bargnani’s eyes who adores respected men, he couldn’t respect the team. It’s no surprise that the Bargnani we’ve seen for seven years and the one that played for Blatt and Messina sit on polar opposite sides of the passion spectrum.

How will this change in New York? I really don’t know if it will. Gregg Popovich is the only coach in the league that is allowed full autonomy. However, at least in New York he won’t have a GM babying him, and we’ll be able to see the full potential of Bargnani if that remains true. If Bargnani respects Knicks coach Mike Woodson, don’t be surprised to see a fully unleashed Andrea Bargnani, and those 13 wonderful games get extrapolated into a full season.

About Dale

If there are two things that Dale loves to do, it is writing and watching the Raptors. At 11 he submitted video game reviews for amateur websites and competed in review competitions. Although he rarely won, he continued to perfect his craft and expanded into other forms of writing. As a Raptors fan he first took a heavy interest in the team with Vince Carter inducing excitement into the young organization, and he's become a fan ever since.


  1. Yeah Cotchin’s had a bit of fall… definitely not Mr Consistent anymore

  2. Wonderful article.
    I feel the same way about Bargnani.
    This guy could become a monster under the right circumstances

Scroll To Top