In defence of Bargnani

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell went out of his way to praise and defend his rookie forward Andrea Bargnani yesterday.

"When practice is at all 11, he's in that weight room at 9:45, every morning," Mitchell said.

To which one wag, pointed out: "We used to hear that all the time about Hof (Rafael Araujo)."

Mitchell shook his head, laughed and walked away. Interview over.

It's true, Mitchell used to praise the now-departed Araujo for his work ethic. But the Raptors' eighth overall draft pick in 2004 just did not (and still doesn't) have the tools to forge a decent NBA career -- although he is still plugging away with the Utah Jazz.

Mitchell is adamant that Bargnani does, even though the Italian rookie, and the first overall pick in the 2006 draft, has only averaged 10.2 minutes, 4.7 points and 3.0 rebounds in the team's first three regular season games.

"He can shoot jump hooks, he can do that type of stuff, then he can step back and shoot a three, and he can put the ball on the floor, drive by on the floor and dunk," said Mitchell. "I heard (GM) Bryan (Colangelo) say it a thousand times, we didn't draft Andrea this year to be rookie of the year. It just takes big guys a little bit longer (to develop). You watch a year or two from now -- as he gets it -- he's got some stuff man. He can turn with one hand and shoot the ball. It's coming."

MAKING THE GRADE

Mitchell talked about the team's new grading system, in which the players are graded every game for their defence, and then presented with the results. The idea is to hold each and every player accountable for his defence. The grading is based on such areas as contesting shots, knowing when to double up with help defence, etc.

"What it shows is, why we win and why we lose," Mitchell said, adding that the grades are not just based on how many points the man you're guarding gets.

"It's the NBA, guys are still going to make shots," Mitchell said.

"If you do what you're supposed to do, and the guy scores, you don't get a bad grade. But we feel strongly, that if you do what you're supposed to do and you contest the shot -- it's a proven fact, the more shots you contest, the lower their shooting percentage will be.


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