A lot of eyes will be on Andrea Bargnani tonight in his return to Toronto.
But the Knicks will be focused on continuing to see how Bargnani fits alongside Carmelo Anthony.
As Bargnani returns to the place he called home for seven seasons when the Knicks face the Raptors, the 7-footer is more concerned with trying to develop chemistry with his new Knicks teammates, including Anthony, than how he might be received in a preseason reunion with the team that drafted him first overall in 2006.
“All I’ve got to say about Toronto is that it was a good seven years,” Bargnani said on Wednesday. “I was lucky to play there and that’s really it. I don’t want to really talk about fans, what happened and frustration, that’s what I have to say about Toronto.”
Even though it is a preseason game, Bargnani certainly would like to get off to a good start against the Raptors. If that happens, that may mean he’s playing well alongside Anthony.
During the Knicks’ 103-102 preseason opening victory over Boston on Wednesday, Mike Woodson tried seeing how Bargnani and Anthony would work off each other in a two-man game at times. Anthony scored seven points and had four assists and four rebounds. Bargnani started and had 12 points and three rebounds in 19 minutes in his Knicks preseason debut.
The two did play off each other at times. Bargnani had his only assist of the game on a 12-footer made by Anthony early in the first quarter. The Knicks got their next basket on a 17-footer made by Bargnani that came off an Anthony assist. In the third quarter, Bargnani dunked off an Anthony feed.
“I thought we did pretty well,” Anthony said. “For me, it was more trying to get Andrea going and trying to figure out his game.”
Bargnani’s ability to shoot from the outside will be key for the Knicks this season. Bargnani is shooting 36.1 percent from 3-point range for his career, but Anthony’s presence should give the 7-footer more open shots on the perimeter. If Bargnani can stay healthy -- he hasn't played in more than 35 games in each of the last two seasons -- and drill open looks, Bargnani should open things up a bit for Anthony, too.
Anthony already offered Bargnani one tip -– pump the brakes on the pump fake a bit for now.
“A lot of times he don’t even need it because he’s just so wide open,” Anthony said he told Bargnani on Wednesday night. “Some of the time that we’re playing together on one side of the floor, you’re going to be wide open. A team has to make a decision about what they want to do -- if they want to double, hedge, if they want to switch -- most of the time he’s going to be the guy that’s wide open.
“But he’s learning,” Anthony continued. “We talked after the game and he wants to put that pump fake in his pocket for a little bit. But he needs it, he’s got one of the (nicer) shot fakes in the game right now. It’s just a matter of when he should do it or not.”
It will be interesting to see how Bargnani plays, even for limited minutes back in Toronto, and how he will be received. Bargnani, though, doesn’t consider his trade to New York as a fresh start.
“I think it’s an opportunity to play on a great team, that’s what it is,” Bargnani said. “It’s not a fresh start. It’s a (new) great team. And I’m in a good position.”
-- With Ian Begley.