Two weeks after Phil Jackson was quoted as calling him a "tease" and a "malinger," Andrea Bargnani told an Italian newspaper that while he will "gladly" respond to his former GM's criticism, now is not the time. His focus has to be on the Italian national team as it prepares for Eurobasket, he said.
"There is a right time for everything," Bargnani told La Gazzetta dello Sport Tuesday, according to a translation, "I have the answers, but it would be selfish to trigger controversy. Today, the only important thing is the national team. Later, gladly."
Asked what his relationship had been with Jackson, Bargnani responded, "Normal. There's never been anything to report."
Jackson excoriated Bargnani in a mid-season interview with his pal, Charley Rosen. Rosen published his notes this month as part of a series on Jackson's first year as GM. Jackson hammered both Bargnani and Shane Larkin, but reserved his strongest criticism for Bargnani, who he implied faked injury to get out of practice.
"AB was and still is a big tease. When he was injured he refused to do simple non-contact activities like dummy our offense in practice. He seemed to be a malingerer and this had a bad effect on the team, and also on the way the Knicks fans reacted to him."
The Knicks GM also called Bargnani an "enigma" ...
"When he was on the court, he had a hard time staying intense, didn't hustle back in offense-to-defense transition, wasn't active enough in defending screen-rolls."
Bargnani's defense --or lack of same-- has always been an issue, as has his hustle. One Italian columnist this week criticized his play in the team's last two "friendly" games which Italy lost. He said it appeared Bargnani was saving his best efforts for an intended "revival" in Brooklyn.
Of the losses, Bargnani told La Gazzetta, again according to the translation, said it was about toughness...
"They highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the team. With Ukraine, we were + 28 without experiencing the slightest effort, but we still have to have the mental toughness over the 40 minutes essential in basketball. "To say that we have to build it sounds bad -- there are only 10 days before the European Championship -- but we have to pull it out."
The 7'1" forward/center played the last two years with the Knicks, earning $22 million but missed 93 games to injury, which in an earlier interview with La Gazzetta he attributed to "crazy bad luck" and in this this interview called "the difficult years."
"It's only human to think of the many accidents. Not that when you have to stop for the sixth, seventh time you're less angry less. There's frustration and the responsibility to start from scratch after losing pace, condition and speed. That's my character, it's great.
"But thinking about what could have happened is the formula of unhappiness, I still very much enjoy playing at the highest level."
Bargnani added that his goal "other than winning" is to be more unselfish, that for 20 years, he's been focused on his shot.
"Nine seasons in the NBA I've only made plavoffs twice. I feel anger in a positive sense along with a desire to feel part of a winning team, to build something bigger than yourself.
"Scoring 20 points per game in the NBA is cool but it has less and less importance."