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Sam Mitchell: Raptors made me coddle Andrea Bargnani

andrea-bargnaniAndrea Bargnani was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2006 and has not developed into the franchise player the Toronto Raptors hoped he would become. The team has had one winning season since he was drafted, and they actually started winning this season after he got hurt. Though he is talented, one of his big problems seems to be his mental toughness.

Sam Mitchell coached the Raptors four and a half seasons and led the team to the playoffs twice. He was the team’s coach when Bargnani was drafted, and he says he wasn’t able to coach the Italian player the way he would have liked.

During an appearance on “Tim & Sid” on the Fan 590 in Toronto, Mitchell says the organization coddled Bargnani.

“I would say my biggest problem with Andrea is I wasn’t allowed to coach Andrea the way I was allowed to coach Jose (Calderon). I was a hard ass on Jose. I was hard on him,” said Mitchell, “but look at the type of player he turned out to be.”

Calderon was drafted by the team the year before, and he has developed into a fine point guard.

“I was not allowed to be that tough on Andrea because the organization thought he couldn’t take it. My whole thing is, if he can’t take it, then we can’t build around him,” said Mitchell.

“No one thought Jose could take it, but look at how Jose did.”

Mitchell was asked by the hosts how early the team decided Bargnani couldn’t handle harsh coaching.

“Early. I think because he was the No. 1 pick and a lot was invested in him, I thought a lot of people in the organization felt my coaching style would be tough for Andrea.”

Mitchell would not call Bargnani a draft bust. He says he still believes the Raptors made the right draft choice that year. Mitchell pointed out that the draft class was weak and lacked an obvious game-changer. He says Brandon Roy would have been the top pick if not for his knees, and that the team debated between LaMarcus Aldridge, who went second overall, and Bargnani. Mitchell says they went for the most talented player, and he says Bargnani still is that guy. The problem with Bargnani, he believes, is that Andrea doesn’t have the desire to be great.

“It just doesn’t seem like he has the passion for the game. It doesn’t seem like it’s important enough to him,” Mitchell said.

“If you go by talent, Andrea is the most talented guy. He has size, he has quickness, he can shoot the ball. The question with Andrea is how bad does he want it? That’s something you can’t measure.”

Mitchell is disappointed that Andrea hasn’t reached the potential that he has. Maybe if the organization allowed the coach to be hard on him, things would have been different.

Toronto went 4-17 in games Bargnani played this season. They have gone 7-3 in games he hasn’t played, and they’ve won six of their last seven. As Mitchell said, if Bargnani returns from his elbow injury and the team begins losing again, they will know what the common denominator is.

H/T Nate Jones


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