New main man

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:28 AM ET

When the dust finally settles, a process that could conceivably drag into August, the Raptors roster will have a look that will have one familiar face.

Lets face it, Chris Bosh isnt coming back, Hedo Turkoglu will get traded and if the trifecta plays itself out even Jose Calderon will have a new address.

For those who have followed the Raptors, be it from afar or on the periphery, there is only one name that stands out in the event the teams core gets completely gutted.

That name is Andrea Bargnani, a guy who came into the league as the No. 1 pick, a guy who made history in becoming the first European-born baller to go first overall.

It is time for Bargnani to live up to the hype and all the expectations that followed his arrival from Italy to Toronto.

The time is ripe in Torontos continuing, if not elusive, evolution into a consistent player on the NBA landscape for Bargnani to assume the mantle of the franchises face.

Whether he can elevate to such heights, whether hes capable of shouldering the burden and responsibility inherent with go-to guys cant be answered now.

During his time in Toronto, Bargnani has taken strides, regressed, impressed, moved sideways and was threatening to become a coach killer when his underwhelming play forced the team to fire Sam Mitchell.

P.J. Carlesimo will ensure that Bargnani doesnt take any shortcuts, but the onus will be squarely on the 7-footer when the Raptors gather sometime in October at training camp.

Unless people get the wrong impression, the rebuild of the team is on, the first step taken when the Raptors got lucky at the No. 13 slot on draft night when Ed Davis fell into their lap.

Davis is a piece, but the kid has a chance to be an immediate presence because hell rebound, defend and run the floor.

No one knows what Bosh will fetch in a potential sign and trade, but keep in mind Bosh can leave on his own to sign with any of a handful of teams with cap space without yielding anything to Toronto.

It was a necessary risk the Raptors had to take, a consequence that may play itself out by as early as late next week when the biggest and most anticipated free-agent door in NBA history swings open.

Whatever the Raptors have up their sleeve, and at this point anything must be viewed as possible, they have to address a need to acquire a facilitator, a Turkoglu-like player minus the selfishness and baggage.

There are pieces such as Bargnani, Sonny Weems and DeMar DeRozan that should lead people to expect that the Raptors are gearing up for a season of athleticism and an up-and-down pace.

Its a team in transition that will play in transition, which isnt conducive to winning a lot of games, but at this stage its something to build on.

Some veteran pieces must be acquired to complement a stable of young bodies whose potential appears promising.

At the end of the day, Bargnani figures to be the last man standing, Torontos most skilled player who simply must come through for an organization he owes an awfully lot to, not only for taking him first overall but also for showing its continued support by extending him.

Optics aside, the stage is being set for the Raptors to usher in a new era, a beginning that is shaping up as the beginning of Bargnani being the face of the team.

He has to grow, of course, mature, get stronger this summer, play more with his back to the basket, be more engaged and responsible in help defence, show more leadership and not drop his head as much when shots arent dropping. He can and hell be expected because a lot will be expected of Bargnani.

The Raptors will exhaust all options in re-signing Amir Johnson, will leave no stone unturned in ridding themselves of Turkoglu, but they must somehow bring in a veteran front-court presence to complement Bargnani.

The torch will soon be passed from Boshs hands to Bargnani.

How Bargnani goes will determine what inroads the Raptors will make this coming season.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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