Andrea Bargnani eager for fresh start
"I had a weird experience in Toronto. I had good years and the last couple of years were bad. When you lose there's going to be frustration. I'm just very excited to be here. I can't wait to start," Bargnani said on a conference call Thursday. "I really want to help this team to win... I'm starving to win."
The Knicks sent Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson, a 2016 first-round pick and second-rounders in 2014 and 2017 to Toronto to acquire Bargnani in a trade that was officially announced on Wednesday.
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Bargnani fell out of favor in Toronto, failing to live up to the expectations of a No. 1 pick. Last season, he averaged just 12.7 points on 40 percent shooting and missed 47 games due mostly to elbow injuries.
Bargnani was booed for long stretches last season by a fed-up Raptors fan base.
"When you lose, it's never easy. Everybody is frustrated. There was a lot of frustration in Toronto because we've been losing the last five years," Bargnani said. "We didn't go to the playoffs. When you're the leading scorer and the leader of the team you get all the pressure. The fans have their right to express their feelings. I really loved Toronto. It was a great city, great fans, great organization. No regrets. I wish them the best."
Bargnani said his elbow injury was a "huge factor" in his struggles last season but assured the Knicks that he is "100 percent" healthy going into the season.
"It's all resolved," said Bargnani, 27. "I'm going to play with the national team this summer. I'm going to play with them and get back in shape so when I get back here I'm going to be ready to go."
Bargnani is widely viewed as a talented scorer but some have questioned his effort on defense and as a rebounder.
"I'll focus a lot on that. I got to get better in many aspects of the game," Bargnani said. "I really look forward to a healthy season and help the team in many ways, all of the different ways."
Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald is optimistic that Bargnani will get back "on track" in New York.
"We're very hopeful that Andrea is still young and now healthy and will have a very bright future with us. The injuries can take its toll and wear on you," Grunwald said. "I think the opportunity to have a fresh start here in New York; he's very excited about that opportunity, (that it) will lead to him getting on track (to be the) player we all hoped he would be."
The Knicks also announced the re-signing of J.R. Smith on Thursday.
Smith's re-signing had been reported last week but could not be announced until July 10 at the earliest, due to the NBA's moratorium on signings and trades.
The team did not disclose the terms of the contract, but Smith's agent, Leon Rose, said last week his client had agreed to a four-year pact worth $24.7 million.
The Knicks have also re-signed Pablo Prigioni and have added Tim Hardaway Jr. and undrafted free agent C.J. Leslie. Grunwald and the front office have five roster spots to fill before the season opens in late October.
"We have a number of players that are interested in playing for us," Grunwald said. "We are obviously going to have a pretty good team and playing in New York is enticing to a lot of people. I'm pretty optimistic that we're going to add some good players to our team in the not too distant future."
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