Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell took the 'glass half empty' approach when talking about sophomore centre Andrea Bargnani yesterday.
Mitchell is pleased that the 2006 first overall draft pick has rediscovered his scoring touch, averaging in double figures in four of the past five games.
However, the fact that the 7-foot Bargnani, who has started at centre the past five games in place of Rasho Nesterovic, has not rebounded the ball has Mitchell deeply concerned. The fourth-year Raptors coach said yesterday following practice that three rebounds a game in the last six is not enough for a player of Bargnani's size and talents.
"We're going to keep our foot in his rear end until he understands that he has to continue to rebound," Mitchell said. "We have to stay on his a... That's as simple as it is. He HAS to rebound."
Bargnani's toughness has been questioned when his lack of rebounding is discussed, but Mitchell said that it has nothing to do with that.
"Andrea's not afraid. I don't think Andrea backs down from anybody," Mitchell said. "He just has to rebound the basketball."
So what will it take for the introverted Bargnani to start rebounding the ball, and take some pressure off his frontcourt teammate Chris Bosh? Mitchell said it is "a lot of things" but mostly positioning.
"Put your a.. on the other guy and go get the ball," said the coach.
Mitchell said youth is Bargnani's foe when it comes to consistency, in rebounding and scoring.
"What people don't understand about our team, we have to kind of stay on guys to do those things, because it has been proven, when we do that, they (respond)," the coach said. "As soon as we think we've got that area taken care of and we ease up on them about it ... for whatever reason it just doesn't happen."
The other area of concern is the lack of scoring from the bench. In Toronto's past two games, the Raptors bench has contributed only 12 points.
"The mentality they have is to come in with energy, defence, create some turnovers, get out and run a little bit, get some easy shots," he said. "Those guys (bench players) finished the San Antonio game (an 83-73 win on Dec. 28) because they were playing defence, it had nothing to do with them scoring. (It was) defence and rebounding. That's what they have to understand.
"It's not that I'm afraid of playing them, I left them in the game against the best team in the West (the Spurs) ... and they finished the game because of what they were doing defensively," he added.