It's hard to think of Andrea Bargnani as a grizzled old professional as much worried about preserving his mind and body than he is thinking about the next time he'd get on the court. But after the most disastrous season of his career ended last spring, and frustrated by his inability to complete a stunning metamorphosis, when the summer finally arrived, the enigmatic Roman Raptors big man knew he had to think about self-preservation. The call of his country was strong. It went unheeded. Bargnani sat out Italy's run through the summer EuroBasket qualification tournament so he could be 100 per cent ready to continue his ascension from defensive-liability to undisputed top dog with the Raptors. "Not to work on my body, but to recover from the injury," Bargnani said of the reason for taking the summer off. "I think playing on the national team is great, every time I go there I learn something, and it's game-time experience, but I'm not 18 anymore. "If you get three months of rest, it's still good, it's my 11th season as a pro, after playing four years in Europe and this is my seventh season (with Toronto) so it was good to have a couple of months to rest and work on my game by myself, even if I miss eight (qualifying) games." Bargnani remains the most important Raptor going into a season that will open with unbridled optimism later this month.