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Saturday, December 28, 2013
Boo birds for Bargs in Toronto?

By Ian Begley

Mike Woodson says he doesn't hear the "Fire Woodson" chants that have sprouted from a small group of fans during recent home games.

It's hard to imagine how that's possible.

But if Woodson can truly block fans' taunts out during the game, he may want to pass his secrets along to Andrea Bargnani.

Bargnani is sure to get booed mercilessly Saturday in his first visit to Toronto in the regular season.

The 7-footer spent his first seven NBA seasons with the Raptors, but like most celebrity marriages, things ended badly between the Raps and Bargnani.

Toronto drafted him No. 1 overall in 2006 to play alongside Chris Bosh. Once Bosh left, Bargnani was asked to be the face of the franchise. It didn't work out too well.

After establishing a career high in points per game (21.4) in 2010-11, Bargnani fell out of favor due to unfulfilled expectations and injuries.

The sweet-shooting big man downplays the significance of his return to Toronto.

"I go back to a place where I played seven years. But other than that, the team, everything changes," he said Friday night.

Everything, except for angry Raptors fans.

It will be interesting to see how Bargnani handles the hostile conditions Saturday night. Could you perform your job well with thousands of people rooting for you to fail?

"Playing in this market, coaching in this market, you've got to be thick-skinned," Woodson said. "You can't worry about that."

Bargnani played one of his finest halves as a Knick on Friday night. He had 14 points, nine rebounds and a block in 20 minutes in the first half.

But Bargnani wilted a bit in the second half. The Knicks needed someone to run the offense through, but Bargnani wasn't looking for his shot. He went 1-for-5 in the final 24 minutes and took just two shots in the fourth quarter.

"We put ourselves in a position where we wanted to be. We played a good three quarters in our house, and then we were not able to finalize the game," Bargnani said. "They played better at the end."

If that trend continues Saturday, maybe Bargnani won't have to worry about hearing boos.

The home crowd will be too busy cheering the Raptors.

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