Happy Labour Day all, it's been a while since we talked about anything too Raptors basketball related.
Sure, we've been talking about the Raptors as an organization a lot, and will continue to do so, but there hasn't been much in the way of on-court topics to discuss ever since the Raps failed to make the 2011 NBA playoffs.
However with basketball in full swing in various international tournaments, it gives us a chance to check in on some members of the Dinos who are participating.
In other words, real basketball talk!
As a team with a number of international players, the Raps each off-season tend to have lots of "real basketball talk" luckily, even in the summer's dog days. Currently, Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas, and Jose Calderon are partaking in Eurobasket 2011, and was Linas Kleiza not still recovering from injury, he'd probably be joining Valanciunas on the Lithuanian team and playing too.
But it's Andrea Bargnani that I want to spend some time on today.
Yes, Bargs, and even as I pen, or type, this piece, I can hear the Andrea backers and dissenters drawing their swords, preparing to do battle.
In fact it was dissenting comments regarding Bargnani's play in Italy's first four Eurobasket games that inspired this little piece.
Specifically, many readers noted that Andrea's performance in Eurobasket was exactly like his performance with his NBA team; all offense and that's about it.
When I read these comments, I couldn't help but feel disappointed.
I'm of the opinion that tournaments like Eurobasket should be great opportunities for international NBAers to show the full array of their games. Unchained from NBA playbooks, facing mostly inferior competition, and playing with many teammates that they're extremely familiar with, it's a good chance for them to get the confidence flowing and truly show what they are capable of.
So to hear that it was same old same old for Andrea, was at face value disappointing.
However I had yet to see any of the action myself, so decided to check out a few sites like Hoopsrumors, where it was quite possible to watch games in almost their entirety. In fact, the first thing I took a look at were some of the highlights of Andrea's 22 points in Italy's loss to France:
"Um...hold up...was that Bargs faking out Joakim Noah, driving the lane and throwing it down?"
"Hard to be too upset with that," I thought.
The other highlights were pretty much run-of-the-mill Bargs, curls, pull-up J's, long-range 3's etc, and failed to show anything in the way of miscues.
It was time to take a trip to the box score.
Not so bad there either.
Andrea did shoot 9 of 15 in the game, so this wasn't a case of Bargnani chucking it up 25 times to get his 22 points. His squad appeared to have just come up short to a France team that even minus Tony Parker during the fourth quarter, is still chalk-full of NBA vets.
In fact based on the game recap and some online footage that I found, Bargs had a shot to put his Italian squad ahead with about a minute left, but his 3-pointer rimmed out, and France never looked back.
So how about the rest of his tournament?
Well, through four games, Bargnani's averaging 22 points (fourth best in the tourney), 6.5 rebounds and 2 blocks. Again, if one of your team's best players is putting up numbers like that, at face value, it's hard to complain.
He's also shooting 45 per cent from the field while taking a high volume of shots per game, not too shabby for most team's top options. (Kobe Bryant shot 45 per cent last season.)
But as I dove deeper and deeper into the Eurobasket stats and footage, I began to realize that again, the same problems I had with Andrea as an NBA player, were rearing their ugly heads here in Eurobasket action.
First, 45 per cent isn't bad for a shooting guard or small forward...but Andrea's not a shooting guard.
Nor a small forward or even power one.
He's listed as a center on Italy's depth chart, one of only two, and considering his size and skill advantage down low, I would have expected his field goal percentage to be closer to that 50 per cent mark. His 45 per cent mark is almost equal to his 44.1 per cent NBA career FG mark.
He's also attempted just over three triples a game so far in Eurobasket, just about on par with his season last year in Toronto, where he took 3.4 a match.
And funny that he only averaged five boards in the loss to France.
Last season he only averaged 5.2 on the year so while that "6.5 rebounds a game" stat for the tourney to date looks ok, the last game could be a sign of regression to the mean so to speak.
Yep, it was quickly becoming clear as to what the comments of "the same Andrea" were all about. Statistically, albeit only through four games, Andrea's European adventure was beginning to look like a carbon copy of his North American one.
More concerning though to me again was the big picture.
In a game where Italy desperately needed someone to own the glass, Andrea couldn't get the job done. The result was a 38 to 19 shellacking on the boards, including the Italians giving up 11 offensive rebounds.
And that folks was the story of the game in a nutshell.
Watch replays and you see a lot of the same thing in terms of Andrea and his style of boxing out that you're probably quite familiar with. It's not like every rebound was easily accessible to him, or it was entirely his fault that the rebounding discrepancy ended up being what it was...but you watch and you again just want to see him be more involved at that end. There's not much more you can say.
And maybe the 6.5 rebounds a game wouldn't be such a concern if someone else on Italy was making like Reggie Evans and hauling in 13 a match, but that's not been the case.
Indeed, we're seeing the same old Andrea, the one who's filling it up on offence, but as his team's marquee player, just not doing enough to help his team win.
The rebounding, dreadful assist to turnover ratio and the like are still just stats but the bottom line is that again, Italy, thanks to the loss to France, will not be participating in post-season action, something all too familiar to Toronto Raptor fans.
Is this completely Andrea's fault?
Of course not.
He's got a few chuckers as teammates who probably aren't helping matters at times, but as Italy's main gun, he's the one who should be shouldering the load at both ends, looking to motivate his club, make key plays, inspire the troops and carry it to victory.
Instead, an all too familiar fourth quarter against France where he failed to score, or have much of an impact at all on the game's outcome.
Andrea is without a doubt one of the more talented players in the tournament, playing on a team with legitimate NBA talent, and facing very few defenders who can keep him in check.
So while the 22 points per game looks good, again, I can't help but watch "Il Mago" in action and find myself wanting more.
A lot more.