By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard about Sam Mitchell’s recent radio comments about not being hard enough on Andrea Bargnani because the organization thought he couldn’t take it, and because of those comments, Bargnani’s negative affect on the Raptors is back in the limelight, especially with the team having won three straight since Kyle Lowry’s return to the lineup.
First of all, as Skeets tweeted last night, the notion that anyone in the organization thought Bargnani couldn’t take tough love from Mitchell doesn’t add up when you remember that Bryan Colangelo and co. were apparently blown away by Bargnani’s outstanding Caliper Profile results before the 2006 Draft. You know, the test that “showed that Bargnani is virtually oblivious to what others think of him.”
But with or without Smitch’s comments, we’d all probably be talking about Bargnani anyway. After all, for better or worse, the Bargnani conundrum is the topic we just can’t get enough of. We’ll all write about him and discuss him and then say things like we’re “done” talking about him or “tired” of talking about him, and yet lo and behold, there we are weeks later having the exact same conversation or writing the exact same column/blog about him.
Outside of Toronto, you have people (Matt Moore is probably the prime example right now since he has been the most vocal about it on Twitter) who can’t understand why Raptors fans seem so eager to dump every issue with this team on Bargnani’s shoulders. Those outsiders make valid points. We’re all aware that whether it’s the schedule, better all around ball movement, more consistent rotations or even just bounces going their way, there’s a lot more to the Raptors’ recent run of success than just Bargnani being sidelined with an elbow injury.
But having said that, Bargnani’s pathetic early season play was a big part of why the Raptors looked so pathetic as a team, and it’s not a stretch to say that while it’s not all on his shoulders, no other Raptor directly affected the team as negatively as Andrea did through the first 20 games or so.
The most surprising and almost disappointing thing to me is that after all we’ve been through as fans with Bargnani, there are still those out there who believe that this most recent round of harsh criticism, the most recent trade rumours and the team’s recent run of success without him could finally be the spark plugs that ignite Andrea and inspire him to get the most out of his tantalizing skillset.
My reaction to that misguided hope? Simply read the short statement in the image above.
For the thousandth time, it will never be a talent issue with Bargnani, and Mitchell himself discussed that (Sam seemed convinced, like most of us, that the talent is there) during the heavily dissected interview with Tim and Sid.
But other than brief and isolated flashes at various points in his seven-year career, it’s been pretty obvious that none of this means a lot to him. He often looks like a guy who’s been handed a set of phenomenal talents in an art that isn’t truly his passion or his calling, and getting the most out of those talents doesn’t seem to concern him. The reason he scored so well on the Caliper is probably the same reason he frustrates so many with his career long inconsistency – he just doesn’t care. If he does, he has a strange and confusing way of showing it.
The obvious problem here is that professional athletes with the reputation of a Bargnani don’t suddenly start looking like they care in Year 7 at age 27. They either have it in them or they don’t.
This isn’t about partaking in some unjust witchhunt against Bargnani. It’s not an indication of his skill level or even a complaint about him being selected No. 1 overall in the only year the Raptors had the top pick. It’s just about a realization that everyone who’s watched the guy play in Toronto should have come to by now that he doesn’t deserve any benefit of the doubt, and that he simply doesn’t belong here anymore.
Pessimistic hating? No.
But “hope?” With Andrea Bargnani?