|06 June 2013|
|Andrea Bargnani: "Right now, I am only thinking about the national team and having a good EuroBasket"|
Italy big man Andrea Bargnani had a turbulent season with the Toronto Raptors in the NBA and regards the upcoming EuroBasket as the perfect launchpad to recover his fitness and form.
"Unfortunately the season was marked by injuries, I only played in 30 games so I didn't get the chance to enter a rhythm," Bargnani, who is back in his native Rome and undergoing a personal training programme, told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"If you do not have the health to be able to stay on the court for consecutive games, it is impossible to perform well," the forward/center added by way of reply to the criticism he received for his displays during the season.
Bargnani, who was drafted in the NBA by Toronto with the first overall pick in 2006, averaged 12.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game this season, as the Canadian franchise failed to come anywhere close to the play-off spots, once again.
He has every reason to be excited though when he thinks about September's EuroBasket in Slovenia, after missing out on last summer's Qualification Round campaign.
"I am very happy to play for the national team again, I can't wait," he said.
"Especially because I am coming from a season with injury problems so I miss being on the court for many minutes, I miss the games, the competitiveness.
"So I am very excited to start training again with my [Italy] team-mates."
Star forward Danilo Gallinari will not be among them however, as he tore his ACL in April and will not return to action until well into the new season.
Meanwhile Marco Belinelli, Italy's third NBA player who had an excellent year with the Chicago Bulls, is yet to confirm his participation.
Does this convert this summer's Italy into Bargnani's team?
"No, it will be the Italian national team, not my team," 'il mago' (the magician) replied categorically.
"The team is good, we have a lot of talent, the potential has always been there since I started playing for the national team in 2006.
"But as we have seen since 2006, talent in itself is not enough; good prospects are not enough on their own.
"To achieve something, we need to make up a team and this is what we will try to do and reach as far as we can."
Bargnani averaged a team-high 22.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest at EuroBasket 2011, but Italy did not manage to qualify to the Second Round of the tournament.
"We all know very well that the EuroBasket is extremely difficult, it always has a very competitive atmosphere," he said.
"Right now, I am only thinking about the national team and having a good EuroBasket.
"Since 2006 we have never brought a good result with the national team, so it would be really nice to finally make it, simple as that."
Italy were drawn in First Round Group D at EuroBasket 2013 and will do battle with Russia, Greece, Turkey, Finland and Sweden for a top-three finish that leads to the next phase of the tournament.