un po lunghino ma sembra interessante.....
There is a saying in Italy that when someone has found a new home, success or fortune that he has “found America.” In the case of the Raptors’ Italian rookie Andrea Bargnani, he found it in North America, and more specifically in Toronto.
Hailing from Rome, Bargnani became one of three foreign-born players to be selected first overall in the NBA Draft when he was taken by the Toronto Raptors in June, 2006. “Il Mago,” or “The Magician,” as he is known abroad, started the season with mixed reviews. In a culture predicated on instant gratification, whispers circulated around water coolers everywhere that the top pick might be a potential bust. Even ESPN's stat guru John Hollinger said that he has "done little to inspire confidence in his few minutes."
But those who passed judgment didn’t know basketball. And they certainly didn’t comprehend the period of adjustment that an international player needs. One man who does understand that process is Maurizio Gherardini, Assistant General Manager of the Toronto Raptors.
Gherardini was Bargnani’s general manager in Italy for the European powerhouse, Benneton Treviso. In Treviso, Gherardini presided over four league championships, seven Italian Cups, three Italian Supercups, two Eurocups and four appearances in the Euroleague’s Final Four. And along the way, he watched the development of players such as the Nets’ Bostjan Nachbar, the Bucks’ Charlie Bell, and former UCLA great Tyus Edney up close, while examining the likes of the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili, Toronto’s Anthony Parker and the Wolves’ Marko Jaric from the opposite bench.
If the new assistant GM played the stock market, one might describe him as a “cool head” investor -- somebody most interested in growth over the long haul. “The process takes some international players two to three years to adjust,” says Gherardini. And that syle has proved fruitful in evaluating players.
In fact, the Mavs’ Dirk Nowitzki, the Spurs’ Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and even already established European star Toni Kukoc all averaged less points per game than Bargnani (11.6) in their respective rookie years. Parker didn't make his first All-Star appearance until his his fifth season, Nowitzki didn't make it until his fourth and Ginobili didn't receive the honor until his third year as a pro.
Although most first-year players find normal basketball adjustments daunting enough, Gherardini points out that Bargnani has faced added challenges such as elevated media expectations, living abroad for the first time and dealing with physical ailments such as an appendectomy late in the season. But despite the No. 1 pick's ability to persevere, Gherardini is still apprehensive and too humble to say that Bargnani is ahead of the curve.
“I think that if he keeps progressing and keeps learning the different defensive rules and continues to play and see the other quality players in the league and adjust, he will be ahead of the curve.”
Bargnani recognizes the process himself, believing there wasn’t an “Aha!” moment that caused him to pick up momentum as the season carried on, but rather a progression achieved in small, incremental gains. “I think I am improving little by little, slowly but surely,” says the Raptors’ 7-footer. “The more time on the court I get and the more opportunities, the better I play.”
As the season neared its close, Bargnani's development accelerated, winning the East's Rookie of the Month honors for January and February, while also prospering in his first postseason action against the Nets. In the final three contests of the series he averaged 17 points on 17-of-28 shooting from the field and 6-for-9 shooting from behind the arc.
Although Bargnani misses his country, Gherardini has assembled a familiar international environment for his young star. The Raptors’ roster is comprised of former Euroleague stars Parker and Jose Calderon, and Italian is spoken everywhere within the locker room due to the presence of former Benneton players Jorge Garbajosa and Uros Slokar, as well as former Italian League stars Rasho Nesterovic and Parker, who played in Bologna and Rome, respectively.
So as Bargnani continues to adapt naturally to the American style of play, Gherardini continues to nurture that process by establishing a European feel within the locker room, creating the type of atmosphere from which a foreign-born, franchise-type player could blossom. After witnessing the Raptors’ quick turnaround and Bargnani’s rapid maturation, one has to believe that Gherardini might not have helped Bargnani “find America” in Raptorland, but rather design it for him.