It's all about Bosh

Andrea Bargnani is all smiles after announcing his extension with the Raps on Wednesday. (Sun...

Andrea Bargnani is all smiles after announcing his extension with the Raps on Wednesday. (Sun Media/Craig Robertson)

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

The Raptors officially announced yesterday that Andrea Bargnani has signed a five-year, $50-million US contract extension.

The yawns can be heard all the way from Peggy's Cove to Etobicoke because, on its own, this bit of house-keeping ranks on the excitement scale with chasing dust bunnies from underneath the sofa.

But, when combined with all the other rumours, innuendo and fact floating around the Raptors these days, it is the first concrete evidence that general manager Bryan Colangelo may have regained his Midas touch.

Bargnani averaged career highs of 15.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.24 blocked shots and 31.4 minutes in 78 games last season, which hints at why the team made him the first European-born player selected first overall in the NBA draft. It also cemented in Colangelo's mind the notion that Bargnani can become "the beginning of a core that can be together for many years ... and be part of a championship team. We hope that Chris will see this is the right place for him to be."

Ah, yes. Chris. As in Bosh. As in free agent after next season.

After a couple of down seasons, Colangelo needs to prove that this team is going somewhere other than the dumper. And, he needs to do it this off-season.

"We needed to get back on track," Colangelo said at a news conference yesterday.

There have been rumours for months that Bosh will leave. Bargnani's signing is one small move in convincing him this team has a chance to be a contender. "I believe that it would have a positive effect on the Chris situation," Colangelo said.

He is expected to follow up in the next few days with the signing of free agent Hedo Turkoglu. Point guard Jose Calderon is under contract through the 2012-13 season. Then, there is the arrival of DeMar DeRozan from the NBA draft.

"You kind of earn your stripes in this business when you make these kind of things happen ... Everything is lining up for us," Colangelo said. "There's a few other things that might still work out too. We're pleased, so far, with the reshaping of this roster. The draft played out the way we wanted. This negotiation played out the way we wanted. Hopefully, in the next couple days we'll be able to announce a free agent signing that's worked out."

Extending Bargnani -- who would have been a resticted free agent after next season -- became a logical step after he showed that he could handle the starting job he was given following the trade of Jermaine O'Neal. After the all-star break, Bargnani averaged 19.3 points on .492 shooting.

Bargnani is staying, in part, for the same reason Turkoglu has decided to come here. The city. It's got a cosmopolitan feel unlike many American cities.

"It was very important from Day 1," Bargnani said. "I had a good feeling about the city. There is a huge Italian community and I see them in restaurants, on the streets and the stadium. This is the place I wanted to play." But he also was honest about the security blanket provided by the lovely money.

"Other than the money -- that's very important for me, of course -- I'm incredibly happy to be in Toronto. I love the city."

The Raptors finished a disappointing season on an up-note by having Shawn Marion and Bargnani flank Bosh instead of using a traditional centre.

Since then, Colangelo has addressed the club's lack of toughness by dealing for Reggie Evans, added the athleticism of DeRozan, and is closing in on Turkoglu to replace Marion.

More to come?

Colangelo indicated there could be more additions, noting: "all but one significant free agent has made it known they would be happy to come here."

The team reportedly is interested in free agents Linas Kleiza and Carlos Delfino, and may yet retain Anthony Parker. But it always comes down to a common denominator: "The better we are, the better we're performing," Colangelo admits, "I guess the more likely Chris would want to be here."


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