April 19, 2011
There's long been a perception that tall European players are soft. By this view, guys like Dirk Nowitzki(notes) don't like to do dirty work in the paint, presumably because they grew up in a home that taught them the value of socialism and fine art and all those other namby-pamby things they do in cultures many Americans like to stereotype but never actually seriously consider. This view is usually incorrect -- foreign players like Vladimir Radmanovic(notes) may be a little lazy at times, but you can say the same of our domestic big men, too.
Of course, there are reasons that these stereotypes persist even as they're proven wrong on a regular basis. One of the players who helps perpetuate this line of thinking is Raptors tall person Andrea Bargnani(notes), the former No. 1 overall pick who has averaged 4.9 boards per game with a 9.5 total rebound percentage in five seasons, with little improvement from season to season. At this point, it is mostly clear that Bargs is never going to be much of a rebounder.
Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo is apparently not ready to give up hope. From Dave Feschuk for the Toronto Star:
At one memorable point in Bryan Colangelo's end-of-season press conference on Monday, the Raptors GM referred to Andrea Bargnani, the club's starting centre, as "the enigma of enigmas, to you and many." Colangelo called the Italian "far from a perfect player." And he was only getting warmed up.
"I don't know if he's ever going to be a better defensive player than he is. Can he be a better rebounder? Absolutely," Colangelo said of Bargnani. "And that becomes, I believe, a mindset. It's something that we talked about. It's a little late to be having this conversation now, as I indicated to Andrea post-season. We know he can rebound, but he doesn't focus on it. . . . That's a desire thing. And that's something he's going to have to come to grips with."
To Colangelo's credit, he didn't pretend that Bargnani has impressed on the boards. Colangelo's job is motivation, not to criticize, and on the grand spectrum of GM spin he is being pretty honest about Bargnani's performance.
Behind closed doors, though, I sincerely hope he does not expect Bargs to become a solid rebounder. It's true that effort is a big part of rebounding, but it's also difficult to expect a 25-year-old center to become interested in attacking the glass when he's never shown that he cares much about that area of the game. It would effectively be the basketball version of a miracle, and GMs don't achieve success by planning for divine intervention.
It's a frustrating state of affairs for a franchise that counted on Bargnani being a versatile matchup nightmare when they drafted him in 2006. Instead, he plays like a 7-foot small forward. The only way they can move on is by accepting his faults and planning the rest of the team around his deficiencies.