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Newly acquired center Andrea Bargnani is making a strong impression on the Team Italy coaching staff -- without actually being on the court.

Bargnani is a changed man, according to Team Italy associate coach Mario Foretti, who told the New York Post that the seven-footer has taken a noticeably different approach to his preparation for the European Championships.

"I think he's more mature," Fortetti said. "He knows better how we need to play at a certain level for European basketball. He's more aware of what he needs to do is and is more wise. He's more helpful this summer than his last summer (2011), is my feeling."

Earlier in July, Bargnani admitted injuries paid a toll on his strength and conditioning last season, but the center said he is now 100 percent healthy.

Bargnani played in just 35 games with the Toronto Raptors last season, missing the final 19 with a sprained shooting elbow. He averaged a mere 12.7 points per game in that span, his lowest scoring average since 2007, his second year in the Association.

But whether it's physical health or his newly developed approach toward the game, Fioretti is confident 2013-14 will be a breakout year for the center.

"I am 100 percent sure next year is going to be his year," the coach told The Post. "He's  so happy about his new situation. He's really happy to be in New York. Not anything against Toronto. The expectations are still there. He's ready to take the challenge."

Before Bargnani has ever taken the court for the Knicks, it seems as if trading for him was already a steal.

The Knicks surrendered 3-point specialist Steve Novak, who had a down year after leading the NBA is 3s two years ago, Marcus Camby, an aging rotation player, and a handful of picks for Bargnani, who will likely be the starting power forward on Opening Night.

A more focused, healthy Bargnani who is looking to start fresh in New York -- well, it sounds better and better for the Knicks.

"I think (Bargnani) came in in shape and put himself in position to take this challenge," Fioretti said. "He's a quiet guy, but my feelings is he's going harder in practices and is a leader by example.

"Sometimes leader are loud, sometimes a leader works hard. You don't always have to be the loud guy to carry the load."

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Tags: Marcus CAmby, steve novak, andrea bargnani, Knicks , Sam Spiegelman
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