Andrea Bargnani has been labeled soft during his entire NBA career. Even during tonight’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, Charles Barkley dissed him by saying he’s a center who plays like a small forward. But at the end of the game, Bargnani showed some surprising toughness when he got tangled up with Kevin Garnett. This is good news for the New York Knicks.
Now lets make one thing clear: Bargnani is no Tyson Chandler. He is not a player who is going to protect the paint with grit and toughness. But since struggling through the Knicks’ first couple of games, he has arguably been the Knicks’ second-best player.
The moment where it all seemed to turnaround for Bargnani is when the Knicks played the Houston Rockets. Bargnani was matched up against Dwight Howard all game long and held the NBA’s premier center to seven points on 1-of-5 shooting.
Tonight against the Nets, Bargnani was actually ejected from the game for barking at Garnett after the two got tangled up earlier in the fourth quarter. Bargnani had an impressive game on the offensive end, going 7-of-13 and shooting 50 percent from 3-point range. He ended the game with 16 point and added three blocks.
When Chandler comes back healthy, the Knicks could actually find themselves with some depth at the five. Mike Woodson could have Bargnani anchor the second unit. The problem with Bargnani during his career has been defense, but he is looking like he is buying into Woodson’s system. He is not the best rebounder, but he is doing an admirable job as the Knicks’ top big man right now.
The Eastern Conference is so bad that if the Knicks start to string some wins together, they could end up being the third best team in the conference. If Bargnani continues to play well and show some grit, the Knicks could get back into the picture in the Eastern Conference.