Bargnani loves minutes

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

Andrea Bargnani was the last Raptor off the practice floor yesterday.

Maybe he was hoping the waiting media horde would tire and leave. Or maybe he's enjoying the game so much these days he's finding it hard to leave the court.

With Bargnani, there are plenty of questions and just as many different answers depending on who you ask.

The big question right now is how does a guy who has been about as consistent as the local meteorologists this winter, all of a sudden put together the kind of five-game run he is on. In those five games, he's averaging 21.8 points and 5.8 boards a night.

The easy answer is he's back in a starting role and more comfortable there. Bargnani, who has started at centre in those five games as Jermaine O'Neal deals with a sore right knee say it's all about minutes, not being a starter.

Looking at games this season in which Bargnani has played more than 30 minutes, the findings seem to back him up.

In the 22 games he has played fewer than 30 minutes, Bargnani is averaging 7.5 points and 3.3 rebounds. Compare that to the 17.7 points and 6.3 rebounds he has averaged when he plays more than 30 minutes.

Of course, he's averaging almost twice as many minutes in those 14 games compared to the other 22. Double the amount of court time roughly should equate to twice the amount of production.

But as head coach Jay Triano points out, it's not just the points and rebounds that have improved, but Bargnani's defensive play.

Chris Bosh, who is enjoying Bargnani's resurgence as much as anyone, says he's seeing a different Bargnani out there these past few weeks.

"It's just aggressiveness and confidence," Bosh said. "He is a very talented big man. He can defend as well as rebound and he can shoot and he can post up. He can do everything. He just has to have that confidence in his game.

"He's a lot more determined," Bosh said. "There have been a couple of games in the past two weeks where he has picked me up and I've said: 'OK, let me get going.' He has done a great job, he has really surprised me and I'm loving it. He has really raised the bar for himself." Jose Calderon, who will be a game time decision tonight after sitting out the past three games with a strained right hamstring, has watched the past two Raptors games on television, something he rarely gets to do and has noticed the big Italian is not rushing his shots as he was before.

"He's taking his time to do everything," Calderon said. "He's receiving the ball, taking his time, taking a few seconds to think about it, whether to shoot, to pass or to penetrate and that's something I have seen from him the past five or six games. He's comfortable playing inside."

It seems no matter where you turn, people are falling over themselves talking up the Raptors' former first overall pick. Bargnani, though, sees no big difference in his play other than the amount of time he's on the court.

"There is no difference. I'm just playing more minutes," he said.

He says that expanded court time and playing alongside Bosh have made the numbers what they are.

"It's good to play with Chris because when he is in the low post they never leave him by himself," Bargnani said of opposing defences. "They don't let him play one-on-one. All five defenders are worried about him so if you can stay close to him, most often you're going to end up with a nice shot."

Whatever the reason, with the Raps as short-handed as they have been reccenly, Bargnani's bust-out couldn't have come at a better time.


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