Flashes of brilliance

FRANK ZICARELLI, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

One minute explosive, the next indecisive.

On one possession he'll take his defender off the dribble and attack the rim.

Yet, another touch he's so intent on getting to the rim that he gets called for a charge with a smaller defender on the wing.

That is the mercurial nature of Andrea Bargnani, a big man who plays small, a talent who has yet to sustain that level of consistency.

He'll show flashes, much as he did in last night's regular-season home opener against the Golden State Warriors.

Bargnani was dunking, getting into the paint, creating in the post and imposing his will during a second-quarter stretch that caught the attention of many in attendance.

It helps that the Warriors don't have a shot-blocking presence, but even when Bargnani was matched up against Andris Biedrins, he was able to attack a legitimate seven-footer.

It has been the knock against Bargnani that he won't go at a bigger, more imposing defender because he lacks both the physical and mental toughness to go on the offensive.

Maybe Bargnani never will develop that edge, but he showed enough to give people at least some hope.

For the Raptors' sake, Bargnani has to reach a level where his game is consistent.

The team needs Bargnani when he gets summoned off the bench.

He has become, even if it is two games into the season, the sixth man, the first big to spell Jermaine O'Neal or Chris Bosh.

Neither O'Neal nor Bosh has Bargnani's shooting range. Neither can put the ball on the floor or shoot over a defender like Bargnani.

There is much to like, but at the same time there is much to worry.

On two consecutive possession in the third quarter, Bargnani turned the ball over, the first when he tried to back the shorter Stephen Jackson into the post.

When Bargnani lowered his shoulder, Jackson took the charge and an appropriate foul was called.

On the next, Bargnani had the ball at the top of the circle and was too quick in his dribble drive to the hoop, the ball leaving his hands and the Warriors parlaying the turnover into an easy bucket.

O'Neal's mere presence makes the Raptors play bigger and with a chip on their shoulders.

There are times when Bargnani plays like no one can stop him.

When he played alongside Bosh last season, there was a stretch when Bargnani attacked the basket and created opportunities for his teammates.

It didn't last long because Bargnani suddenly became a jump shooter, eschewing the dribble drive and essentially rendering himself useless.

SERVICEABLE

Little wonder the Raptors went with the veteran hand of Rasho Nesterovic, a serviceable player whose skill-set is inferior to Bargnani.

At least Nesterovic would rebound and defend.

With Bargnani, it's either a feast or famine proposition.

In Wednesday's curtain raiser in Philly, Bargnani played close to 20 minutes, missing all four of his shots from the field, hauling down five rebounds and recording two block shots.

At least he contributed on a night when his jumper eluded him.

But the Raptors need more and they need Bargnani to be more consistent.

There will be nights when both Bosh and O'Neal will struggle.

Kris Humphries is a mystery that requires more space and explaining than the enigma that is Bargnani.

With last night's game requiring overtime, it was Bargnani on the floor with Bosh and not O'Neal, who still rushes his offence and gets too frustrated when a call doesn't go his way.

Against a team like Golden State, which spaces you out on the floor and attacks from virtually every angle, Bargnani can be effective.

When Kelenna Azubuike was matched up against the Raptors forward it was a classic mismatch.

Bargnani found a way to get his shot off to find nothing but net.

For Bargnani, it was his 18th and 19th points of the night as his bucket gave the home side a six-point lead, an advantage the Raptors would use to prevail 112-108.

A smile actually crossed his face. Bargnani was having fun, but more importantly he was having his way.

The Raptors have to find more creative ways to use Bargnani, but it's also up to him to step up.

He remains a riddle, but the mystery slowly is being uncovered.


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