Fairly or unfairly, a lot of Raptors fans assumed Jay Triano was either too “soft” with players, too intimidated by Bryan Colangelo or too in over his head to succeed as an NBA head coach. Another thing most Raptors fans are in agreement on is that despite his exceptional natural talents, Andrea Bargnani doesn’t have the will to ever be a good rebounder, a good help-defender or therefore an All Star caliber player.
None of us are around the team every day, and even accredited members of the media will never know what really transpires on the inside, within the Raptors team and overall organization. So none of us can deduce beyond a reasonable doubt whether these assumptions are true or untrue.
But today, in a Grantland piece by Jonathan Abrams that documented a week in New Jersey Nets training camp (thanks to RaptorBlog founder and editor Scott Carefoot for making me aware of this on twitter), P.J. Carlesimo might have shed a bit of light on both Triano and Bargnani.
After being told about an idea that would allow the Nets guards to crash the boards while the bigs made a dash up the floor, Carlesimo, who served as an assistant under Triano last season, had this to say, according to Abrams:
“That’s what I wanted to do with [Andrea] Bargnani last year, but [former Raptors coach Jay] Triano wouldn’t let me,” Carlesimo says. “He said it was demeaning. At least our smalls had a chance of getting the rebound.”
If you see a stalled TTC bus anywhere in the city today, you might want to make sure Jay Triano and Andrea Bargnani aren’t under it.
Whether Carlesimo realized he was throwing Triano and Bargnani under the bus or not, those words were said, according to Abrams, before a coaches’ meeting, in front of a reporter no less. Carlesimo obviously felt strongly enough about this to warrant saying it in this setting.
As Scott pointed out, it’s tough to determine who’s being roasted more here, Jay or Andrea. None the less, it’s a revealing quote.
But what does it really tell us?
Well if Carlesimo’s statement is true, Triano either didn’t necessarily value everything Carlesimo suggested, or he was really, really careful about what he said to Andrea Bargnani. Which brings us to the next point: Either Triano was too soft on Andrea or Bargnani is too easily offended.
I don’t think it’s demeaning to ask a big to do this once in a while as part of a set counter-attack. If you’re telling him he should always defer to a smaller guard to grab a rebound, then that’s demeaning, but I feel like Bargnani would be psyched to hear that it’s one less play he has to get dirty on.
As for P.J.’s closing quote, well that’s all on Bargs. “At least our smalls had a chance of getting the rebound.” There is nothing secretive or hidden left to read into here. Carlesimo is merely expressing what a lot of people already believed, and that’s that Andrea Bargnani is incapable of rebounding.
In this setting, whether Andrea can’t rebound or can and just doesn’t want to (I believe the latter) doesn’t matter. You have a respected NBA coach who has been around for years saying he has more faith in a much smaller guard coming up with a rebound than he does a seven-footer.
This added line makes PJ’s whole statement much more insulting for Bargnani than it is for Triano. At least you could argue that Jay was trying to keep his players happy, that he just didn’t believe in the play from an X’s and O’s standpoint or that he thought it was a no-no within the organization to slight Bryan Colangelo’s No. 1 overall pick. What can we say to excuse Carlesimo’s opinion of Bargnani’s rebounding ‘skills?’
Whether Carlesimo’s comments pick up steam in Toronto basketball circles or within the Raptors organization is yet to be determined, but for those who do find and read the Carlesimo quote, it’s perhaps the most damning indication of Triano and Bargnani’s relationship, outside of complaints from fans, yet.
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