All-star dream for Bargnani

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

First it was Hedo Turkoglu, who told the Turkish media this past summer that his goal this season was to make the NBA all-star team.

And now it's Andrea Bargnani.

The fourth-year Raptor reportedly told a fan that his goal was to make the NBA all-star team. The fan posted the comments on a website and yesterday, following the Raptors practice at the Air Canada Centre, Bargnani was asked by the media if he has indeed set such a goal.

"Of course," the 7-foot Italian responded. "I think every kid all over the world dreams about being an all-star."

When pressed if making the all-star team was a specific goal for him this season, the Rome native responded in the affirmative.

"You can set a goal as much as you want, but it's not going to get you there unless you practice (hard) every day and play good," he said.

Ascending to all-star status wouldn't be a huge stretch for the NBA's first overall draft pick from 2006.

Following two promising, if inconsistent seasons, Bargnani broke out in a major way last season, averaging career highs of 15.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.24 blocked shots and 31.4 minutes per game.

He moved into the starting lineup Dec. 31, started all 45 remaining games, and was especially effective in the second half -- setting the stage for what the organization is hoping will be a big 2009-10 campaign.

Raptors head coach Jay Triano is certainly expecting big things from his big centre, as he plays alongside Chris Bosh and Turkoglu in the Raptors frontcourt, and likes what he has seen so far in the pre-season. Bargnani arrived in camp stronger and heavier.

AIR OF CONFIDENCE

"I think he's added to his game," Triano said. "There's an air of confidence, as far as what he can do offensively. He seems to be able to score in a lot of different ways -- put it on the floor and take it to the basket, he's got the mid-range game and he can knock down the threes.

"And with his strength he's been able to post guys up now. Offensively, he's playing with a lot of confidence."

Still, a member of the Raptors media relations staff expressed concern that Bargnani may not have realized that by telling a fan he wants to be an all-star this season, his words would eventually reach the local media. In today's multi-media age, there are few secrets when dealing with the public.

But general manager Bryan Colangelo certainly doesn't have a problem with Bargnani making his goals known to anyone, whether to fans or ink-stained wretches.

"I'm always encouraged when players set lofty goals (and) I'm sure Hedo and Jose (Calderon) are shooting for the same thing," Colangelo said. "And although it's an individual reward, team success is the greatest determinant (for the players)."

The Raptors play their final pre-season game tonight, in Sioux Falls, S.D., against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The home opener is next Wednesday at the Air Canada Centre against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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