Great report from Michael Grange
But for all the changes the Toronto Raptors have made in the off-season, the addition of the 6-foot-8, 245-pound chainsaw has paid the earliest dividends, sticking out for all the right reasons on a team built around finesse and skill.
He had his first impact before training camp even started in an informal scrimmage last week at the Air Canada Centre when he gave Bargnani a dose of mid-season nasty. Bargnani took note and came back a day later with a sense of purpose to the delight of those who watched.
“They went at it pretty hard,” said Raptors president Bryan Colangelo, who acquired Evans from the Philadelphia 76ers for Jason Kapono in June. “The first day . . . by the end of it [Bargnani] was like a punch-drunk prize fighter. He looked like he was exhausted. It was fighting on the glass; it was trying to exert more energy on the offensive end because he had someone defending him – whether it was at the three-point line or inside – with physical force.
“I saw him come back the next day with a little different approach and he was more prepared for it. I said wow, if that’s any indication of how Reggie is going to make others on the floor better, it happened in 24 hours.”
“When you play against [skill] players you always want to be aggressive . . . you want to bring that toughness and make it uncomfortable for them,” said Evans, who made the NBA as an undrafted free agent in 2002 with the Seattle Supersonics. “As a defender, you have to do things that take them out of their comfort zone. If that means denying him the ball or being aggressive, bumping him before the gets the ball, that’s what you’ve got to do; pick your poison.”
For his part, Bargnani said any claims that clashing with Evans served as a jump start to his own practice intensity are overstated – “I didn’t get frustrated, I didn’t say one word, I just played” – but he allowed that going against a dogged defender and rebounder of his ilk can only help.
“I’m happy Reggie’s here. I think he’s going to make me better,” said Bargnani, who flourished when he became the team’s regular starting centre in the second half of last season. “He’s a good rebounder. He can get me used to boxing out my man every time. He always goes to rebound every time so you have to box out, you have to stay focused.
“He’s one of the toughest opponents to play against, and it’s good,” said veteran centre Rasho Nesterovic, who has returned to the Raptors after spending last season in Indiana. “Sometimes you get relaxed, a little sleepy and he wakes up everybody. Playing against him is really tough, you have to pay attention all the time.”
- Other link — good article in the National Post on Bargnani’s attempt to reach greater heights … the Reggie Evans angle + a quote from Gherardini on how opposing defenses will now be waiting for Bargs.
Good to hear Reggie Evans having a positive effect on practice. It would be great to see Bargnani get better at boxing his man out, something I think he’s fairly poor at right now. I think it’ll be easier for Bargnani to develop this part of his rebounding, rather than his ability to grab a lot more rebounds.
It’s also nice to hear a bench player pushing a starter … we didn’t hear that often enough last season.
Anyway, nothing important to say right now, I just wanted to mark down the links for later in the year. It may be interesting to look back at this in 3-4 months time and see if any developments come about from this.