He was the first European player to go first overall in the NBA draft, now Andrea Bargnani is coming back after a decade in the NBA to play for Baskonia. Emmet Ryan says it’s going to be fascinating
The timing of Andrea Bargnani’s arrival in basketball, or at least the public consciousness of it, put him in a bit of a fix. European players were getting respected at a level never previously imagined. In a shallow draft, Bargnani was the can’t miss prospect. A long Euro who could shoot the three and just needed to get a little stronger inside. He was the pick the Toronto Raptors needed, opting for him over Rudy Gay. Having just won the Italian league and been named the Euroleague Rising Star, Bargs was heading to the NBA at a time when European hoops had never been rated higher. Greece beat the USA in the FIBA World Championship just a couple of months after the Italian became the first ever player from the continent to go first overall in the NBA draft.
Then Bargnani’s NBA career happened and it really has been looked at as far more of a dumpster fire than it deserves. His first season was flat-out iron-man stuff, coming second in the rookie of the year race while helping the Raps win a division title for the first time in history all after having to miss a month due to an emergency appendectomy. There came wobbles but, clunkily, his development seemed to be coming along well save for a poor sophomore season. The injury fears were never quite going away but the potential always made it seem worth waiting. Then, in 2012, he looked like a legitimate candidate for the All Star game. Such a feat was so unlikely for a Raptor that the folks now known as The Starters, then The Basketball Jones, gave him his own Kanye inspired campaign song.
Then came more knocks and his form went through a floor. Eventually he packed his bags for the Big Apple, first with the Knicks and then with the Nets but he never caught fire with either. A few solid performances at EuroBasket last year, but few all that inspiring, did at least show that he still had that fight in him. When things went against him, and they often did, Bargs found a way back and just kept going in bullheadedly. His game was ugly as sin but the frustration and relief that followed was evident. He was getting a chance to matter and no amount of screw ups or poor decisions on his part was going to stop him. That doesn’t exactly raise spirits in isolation but broadly speaking it points to the guy still wanting to be a part, a big part, of wherever he plays.
That makes his landing spot seem awfully logical as Baskonia sure need to go high risk high reward right about now. Bargs could completely blow up and drag the side down or #Bargskonia could be a different flavour to the renaissance enjoyed by Ioannis Bourousis. It’s hard to remember just how done the relevant part of the Greek’s career appeared to be after his disappointing spell at Real Madrid. A single year in Vitoria restored him to his once dominant self.
Bargs has never been dominant, or at least not been in a position where he could. He’s hardly a forgotten man either, having been oft-discussed throughout his multiple attempts to find the magic that was there earlier in his career. Now, at 30, he’s got a chance to be the guy on a team which desperately hopes he’s capable of being it all while still having some good years left in him on paper.
Baskonia have lost the stars that brought them to Berlin. #Bargskonia could bring them to back to back Final Fours or send them into irrelevance by mid-season. It’s going to be quite the ride.