by Frank McLean
The Brooklyn Nets are finding out what the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks already figured out, Andrea Bargnani is still a giant pain in the you know what. The Nets signed the seven foot Italian center in the summer and he did not play a single preseason game for the club as his left hamstring bothered him for the entire preseason. First impressions are everything and you can say he has not made a good one with his new ball club.
Bargnani did take part in the club’s first week of practice at Duke University. Then October 5th the team announced that he had hurt the hamstring and no timetable was given for his return. Right now the Nets are not sure if he can play in their opener at home Wednesday night against the Chicago Bulls in Brooklyn.
Last week at practice Bargnani was very evasive when asked if he can play in the opener. He was asked three times if was going to play and each time he didn’t really give an answer.
“I’m positive about it”, Bargnani said. “I feel pretty good, and I think we’re doing pretty good. Tomorrow I’m going to do even more.”
Now the media that covers the Nets knows what the Raptors and Knicks beat reporters had to put up with.
Many pundits questioned the signing of Bargnani. He has a history of calf and hamstring injuries. He missed 49 of the Knicks first 51 games last season. Maybe Brooklyn should have listened to Knicks president Phil Jackson. Back in August Jackson did not give a very glowing recommendation of Bargani by first calling him a big tease in an interview with ESPN.
“When he was injured he refused to do the simple non-contact activities, like dummy our offense in practice,” Jackson said. “He seemed to be an enigma and this had a bad effect on the team”. “AB was and still is a big tease”.
That’s not the comment one wants when asking for a recommendation from their former employer.
All teams in professional sports will tell you that only an athlete can tell you when his body will let him play. You cannot feel another man’s pain. An MRI did not show any injury. What has frustrated Brooklyn’s coaching staff is that he has practiced then not practiced and they need him in the line-up as there are other injuries on their roster.
Right now Brooklyn has only 3 healthy big men to start the season Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young and Thomas Robinson. Willie Reed (thumb surgery) and rookie Chris McCullough (knee surgery) are out. They don’t have enough size right now to last through the first month of the season. Brooklyn head coach Lionel Hollins was very excited about the potential Bargnani brings to the team. However, he’s not sure if he is a go in the opener.
“I hope he will,” Hollins said. “I just want him to come and be healthy and play at full speed, play up to his capabilities.”
The signing of Bargani was a bit of a gamble for Brooklyn. He has spent a better part of the last 4 seasons on and off the injured list. He has always shown flashes of brilliance when he plays regularly, that’s why the Toronto Raptors made him a first round pick in the draft. Toronto Raptors fans always thought he was a lazy underachiever and they booed him off the court at every opportunity, however, many scouts saw him as a special talent when he was playing in Europe.
Brooklyn hopes he can show some of that special talent those scouts in Europe saw because he is a big part of the answer they hope can get them contending for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.