What should Knicks nation expect from Andrea "Il Mago" Bargnani? Not a lot.
For seven long, excruciating seasons, I was a firsthand witness to the anxiety-inducing nightmare that was Andrea Bargnani, both as a former employee of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (Game Operations), as well as a writer who's covered the franchise for several years afterwards.
I've seen it all. From the good (there were glimpses) to the very, very bad, I was able to observe him from the moment he was drafted first overall in 2006, to the day he was miraculously dealt to The Big Apple.
And what a glorious day it was.
On July 10th, new Raptors GM Masai Ujiri sent Bargnani to the Knicks for a package that included Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson, one first-round pick (2016) and two second-round picks (2014 and 2017).
It was extraordinary. The notion that Bargnani wasn't going to suit up for the Raptors in 2013-14 took a while to sink in, but when it did, the feeling that came with it was beyond words.
At that point, the Raptors' fanbase would have been satisfied with a nice pair of slacks and a ham and cheese sandwich for its former "franchise" player.
New York didn't need Novak, Camby or Richardson, so the trade made sense. They were expendable. Novak was really the only player with any basketball value that the Knicks were sending away. He finished the season 11th in the NBA in three-point shooting at 42.5 percent. Being a sharpshooter is really all he's good for, but the Raptors need assistance in that area after only shooting 34.3 percent (25th in the NBA) themselves.
Camby and Richardson were just veterans who the team could call on from the end of its bench to play spare minutes in games. Neither player was going to have a future in Toronto (Camby's contract has recently been bought out, according to ESPN.com), but from a financial perspective, they needed to be included to make the deal work.
That package would have been enticing enough, yet the Knicks threw in three draft picks (including a protected first-rounder), just to sweeten the pot.
It became highway robbery. It felt like a crime was being committed. How could the Knicks' franchise give up so many assets for someone like Andrea Bargnani?
I was just curious, that's all.
To be fair, Bargnani wasn't a complete waste during his tenure with the Raptors' organization. He had his (rare) flashes of brilliance.
2010-11 was clearly his best season, averaging 21.6 points and 5.2 rebounds. He's a 7-footer with tremendous range that very few bigs in the NBA can say they have.
Enough with the pleasantries.
For the past two seasons, Bargnani was an unmitigated disaster. He played 66 total games due to injuries, his field-goal percentage took a huge hit (43.2 to 39.9), and his scoring numbers fell (19.5 to 12.7), as well.
Coach Dwane Casey had to start subbing in Bargnani during television timeouts just so the fans wouldn't boo him and hurl their vicious insults.
He never played the game of basketball with any pride. As the years progressed, it was starting to become more apparent that he didn't care anymore. His passion was fading, if it was even there in the first place. Bargnani rarely presented the work ethic it took to get better and help lead this team back to the postseason. It's as if he never wanted the responsibility that came with being "the guy."
New York idolizes its tough-minded players who have a winning attitude and play with heart and the love for the game. Bargnani possessed none of those qualities as a Toronto Raptor, so I can only imagine what he's going to be like as a Knick.
Here's where I bite my tongue. Bargnani is 27 years old. He isn't "finished" just yet. This move to the Knicks' could be just what the doctor ordered. It could be a rebirth of some sort.
Besides, if he thought Raptors fans were letting him have it, he will be in for a rude awakening if he exhibits the same mediocre level of play in New York.
He's a horrific rebounder (career 4.8 per game), his defense down low is non-existent, and his recent injury history would make anyone cautious. Teaming him with Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony is an open invitation for the opposition to attack the paint.
Bargnani is also costing the Knicks $23 million over the next two years, although his contract does come off the books at the end of the 2014-15 season.
Knicks fans should do themselves a favor and keep any expectations they have for Andrea Bargnani to a bare minimum. The less you invest emotionally, the better. I wish I would have done that.
Sure, he could become a 15-and-six guy off the bench or even in the starting lineup as a stretch four.
I just call it like I see it. Will he find success with the Knicks? Possibly, but I'd bet an arm and a leg that he won't. I haven't seen enough over the last seven years to think otherwise. All of the talent in the world can't compensate for laziness.
His role will be smaller than it was in Toronto. That's a blessing in disguise. You might not even notice that he's there. That would be the best-case scenario.
The Knicks' franchise gave up a lot to acquire him (three players and three draft picks), whether they want to admit that or not.
I apologize in advance, Knicks fans. He's your problem now.
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