I've got a couple of things on the go today, including a visit this afternoon with Raptor-for-life Andrea Bargnani, but the question really boils down to: Is the big Italian worth five years and $50-million (U.S.)?
Obviously not if you look at his career numbers - 12.4 points and 4.3 rebounds on 42.4 per cent shooting. But the thinking is that in the NBA you are what you are going to be by your third season. Well, how about the second half of your third season? In 46 games beginning from January on Bargnani averaged 18.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots while shooting 46.8 per cent from the field and 43.2 per cent from the three-point line. And the numbers don't capture the improving post game; the increasing flashes of a dangerous mid-range game.
I'm the farthest thing from an Andrea apologist and the aspect of his game that concerned me most in his lost second season was his general lack of competitiveness and the fact that without a post presence he could easily be covered by a two guard. And then there was the fact that he was supposed to be a shooter, but couldn't really shoot. In the long run, that season and the sluggish start to last season could be the best thing that has ever happened to the franchise.
To really win in the absence of a true superstar you need guys who play above their contract value. A weak 120-game stretch in the middle of his career depressed Bargnani's bargaining power - draft mate Brandon Roy, for example, will be getting an extension very close to the maximum allowed. But if Bargnani can build on what he did last season - 21 and 7 on 48 per cent shooting maybe? - and continue to grow other aspects of his game, $10-million will be excellent value for that kind of production. Had he produced that way all along he would be looking at a richer deal. He's been so up and down it's hard to predict exactly where it will go, but I think it's worth taking the chance that $10-million a season will be a bargain for this guy. And if it is, the Raptors have a chance to be pretty good for several years.
Also, a huge, huge win over Argentina for Canada's U19 men at the World Championships in New Zealand last night or morning or whatever. They've qualified for the quarter-finals but unfortunately will meet the undefeated US team, but you have to beat the best to be the best, so you never know.
Here are the details from Canada Basketball.
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Canada's Junior Men's National Team (JMNT) beat Argentina 67-57 on Wednesday to advance to the quarter-final round of the FIBA U19 World Championship. Top ranked guard Corey Joseph (Pickering, Ont.) was excellent in the key, leading all scorers with 20 points.
Mangisto Arop (Edmonton) followed Joseph with 18 points for the red-and-white. Ty Nurse (Vancouver) and Tristan Thompson both made their mark off the bench, scoring eight and seven respectively, while Kelly Olynyk was the top rebounder with seven boards.
JMNT Head Coach Greg Francis was pleased with his team's performance.
"Our guys came out focused and played four solid quarters of basketball as well as strong defence," said Francis. "They worked hard to earn this berth into the quarter-finals and I am very proud of them. We now plan to focus on the crossover match this Friday."
The Canadians have been a great force defensively and currently sit as the second best rebounding team in the tournament.
"It was a great team effort today," said Joseph, who continued to shine offesively after scoring 24 on Monday and 20 on Tuesday. "We were all ready and came out to play."
Argentina's Lisandro Rasio led his team with 14 points and seven rebounds, followed by Luciano Gonzalez who added 12 points and five boards.
Canada got on the scoreboard first with a two from Jordan Baker (Edmonton). Teammates Olynyk and Thompson each added a pair. But it was all Joseph to start the game as the 6'2" point guard raked in nine points in just over five minutes forcing Argentina to call a timeout. Argentine forward Rasio tried to get some momentum going for his team, collecting six in the first quarter along with forward Mateo Gaynor who added four. Despite a last minute Argentine push, Canada held on to close out the first period 21-17.
Argentina's Gonzalez had a steal and two buckets to start the second quarter as the blue-and-white went on an 8-0 run, taking the lead 25-21. Canada missed three key shots and collected two turnovers leading to a timeout with eight minutes remaining. Mangisto Arop scored a couple of quick two's and a pair of free throws to bring the red and white back to within one at 28-29. With just over one minute left in the period, Canada managed to tie the game at 34 apiece, where the score stood until a final bucket by Joseph with six seconds to go to end the half 36-34.
Canadians boost lead in third quarter
In the third quarter, the Canadians continued to provide some great highlights led by Joseph and Arop. Midway through the quarter, Arop made a two handed flush off an Argentine turnover to give the team a four-point lead 44-40 with 5:30 to go. Joseph followed with a tough two in the lane to make it 46 -40 and Argentina had to call a timeout. Canada did not let up as Thompson delivered an impressive dunk on Argentine forward Gaynor. Argentina managed to come back to within five with 50 seconds left but Canadian co-captain Nurse hit a big three with 1.4 seconds left on the clock to end the quarter 54-45.
Nurse started the fourth with another bucket but the team then struggled to make shots. Argentina's captain, Pablo Orlietti, hit a three to make it 56-51 with seven minutes to go. Joseph hit a deuce and Argentina's Rasio followed suit. Arop scored a basket off a missed three from Joseph to make it 60-53 at the halfway point. Argentina's Federico Glinberg missed a dunk on a fast break, and Canada took charge. Nurse scored a deep three with seven on the shot clock to give Canada a 10-point lead. Argentina tried to chip away within the last two minutes, but Canada managed to hold to win 67-57.
"This win really helps us," Thompson told fiba.com after the game. "It gives us some mojo to take into the next round."
Teammate Joseph is also looking ahead to the quarter-finals. "We just have to refocus for our next opponent and do the things we need to do."
With this win, Canada closed out the round in a three-way tie with Argentina and Spain for third in "Group F" with a 3-3 record. The first tiebreaker, according to FIBA rules, is records among the three teams, which left them still tied as Argentina had beaten Spain and Spain had beaten Canada. Next, came goal average, with Argentina winning out based on their goal average in the games among the three teams at 1.05, with Canada second at 1.02 and Spain last at 0.94.
Canada would have needed to win by two more points in order to eclipse Argentina in goal average, and thereby avoid meeting the top-ranked U.S. in the quarter-finals, which go Friday. The U.S. is 6-0 in the tournament. I