Some heady praise for Raps rookie

DEAN McNULTY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:04 AM ET

The comparisons between Raptors rookie Andrea Bargnani and Dallas Mavericks all-star Dirk Nowitzki may be unfair given their respective NBA experience, but they are inevitable, just the same.

Both are big men, both are from Europe and both were first-round draft picks.

But that is pretty much where the comparisons should end, firstly because Nowitzki -- in his ninth year in the association -- starts and gets his minutes.

Yesterday, Nowitzki was on the floor for 46 minutes of 48 played and notched a game-high 38 points. Bargnani came off the bench to put 32 minutes and 12 points beside his name.

Secondly, while Nowitzki is being mentioned again this season for MVP consideration, Bargnani will settle for a few rookie-of-the-year votes.

The seven-foot German, however, said following yesterday's 97-96 win over the Raptors, that he liked what he saw in the young Italian, who was selected No. 1 overall in the NBA draft.

"How old is he now, 20, 21?" Nowitzki asked. "Whatever he is, he is certainly better than I was when I was that age."

Nowitzki, 28, said that he got to see Bargnani up close and personal more than he might have liked yesterday.

There was one point in the game, with 2:04 left in the third quarter, when Bargnani dunked over Nowitzki and, just seconds later, batted a shot away from the Dallas forward at the other end.

"Obviously, he is a great shooter, but he can put it on the floor a little bit, too," Nowitzki said. "I like him, I like him a lot."

He wasn't about to anoint Bargnani as a star just yet, however.

"He still has a lot to learn. He is a rookie in this league," Nowitzki said. "If he'll just keep his eyes and his ears open, he will improve from year to year. He will be a great player in this league."

Nowitzki wasn't the only one on the Dallas side of the court who was impressed with the Toronto rookie.

Mavs coach Avery Johnson said he came away from the game convinced that the Bargnani is the real deal.

"For a big man, I really like the way he goes to the basket," Johnson said. "He has improved his play so much since the start of the season."

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REPORT CARD

B Offence: The Raptors beat the Mavs in two of three offensive categories -- shooting 48% from the floor, and 54% from three- point land. But they managed 87% from the free throw line compared to Dallas' 90%

B- Defence: The missed assignment on Josh Howard's winning basket was pretty much inexcusable but the Raptors did grab 16 turnovers to the Mavs 11 and held the powerhouse to 40% shooting.


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