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Old 10-04-2012, 05:22 PM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2011
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Default Andrea Bargnani hopes summer rest pays off; Adds 15 lbs

HALIFAX—It’s hard to think of Andrea Bargnani as a grizzled old professional as much worried about preserving his mind and body than he is thinking about the next time he’d get on the court.

But after the most disastrous season of his career ended last spring, and frustrated by his inability to complete a stunning metamorphosis, when the summer finally arrived, the enigmatic Roman Raptors big man knew he had to think about self-preservation.

The call of his country was strong.

It went unheeded.

Bargnani sat out Italy’s run through the summer EuroBasket qualification tournament so he could be 100 per cent ready to continue his ascension from defensive-liability to undisputed top dog with the Raptors.

“Not to work on my body, but to recover from the injury,” Bargnani said of the reason for taking the summer off.

“I think playing on the national team is great, every time I go there I learn something, and it’s game-time experience, but I’m not 18 anymore.

“If you get three months of rest, it’s still good, it’s my 11th season as a pro, after playing four years in Europe and this is my seventh season (with Toronto) so it was good to have a couple of months to rest and work on my game by myself, even if I miss eight (qualifying) games.”

Bargnani remains the most important Raptor going into a season that will open with unbridled optimism later this month.

Any successful team needs its best player to be its best player and the Raptors need Bargnani to be as he was at the start of the 2012 season — shockingly aggressive defensively, the team’s most significant overall offensive threat — if the optimism is to be rewarded.

“(I’m) really happy that he’s come into camp in great shape, 15 pounds heavier, stronger but he’s playing at that high level that we saw last year and I’m excited about it,” coach Dwane Casey said after the Raptors worked out at the Canada Games Centre here Wednesday.

“Again, when he plays at that level, he can be an all-star, one of the most talented players in the league when he plays at that level and I have all the confidence in the world that he can do that.”

Casey is most impressed by the fact Bargnani, who averaged 19.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in just 31 games last season, came back 15 pounds heavier than the 7-footer was at the end of last season.

Bargnani said the combination of the injury and the inability to work enough when he played because of the compressed 2012 season made him lose weight last year; Casey said the extra bulk has to help.

“When you’re a star player you’re going to have some heavy minutes and that’s going to help his strength,” said the coach.

And Bargnani might now be able to handle the defence that teams use against him most successfully. He’s too quick to be guarded by other 7-footers but he’s had a hard time with smaller, more physical opponents.

“He’s getting that in practice every day (from 6-9 defensive specialist Dom McGuire) so it’s going to help him and I see him playing with such aggression and such confidence now he’s giving everybody fits when we get him the ball.”

With nearly six months to sit and stew between games, Bargnani can’t wait for Monday’s preseason opener against Real Madrid at the Air Canada Centre.

“I don’t remember another time when I was so many days without playing games,” he said. “It was tough mentally, because I had to sit out and watch my teammates play. Other than that, I had all summer to recover from the injury, so it wasn’t tough physically.”
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