Dwane Casey on Andrea Bargnani’s return to Toronto: ‘He should put on ear plugs’

Kelly Dwyer

Andrea Bargnani had a rough end to his career in Toronto. The onetime top overall pick in the NBA draft disappointed in his seven years with the team, his production dropped over his final three seasons there, as Bargnani was consistently brought up as a candidate to be waived by the team with no compensation with the NBA’s amnesty clause.

Instead, the Raptors somehow found a taker for the final two-years and $23 million on Bargnani’s contract, dealing him to New York for Steve Novak, the since-departed Marcus Camby, and a first round pick in 2016. Because the Knicks are the Knicks.

And because Raptor fans are still upset at how Bargs played on both ends over his final few campaigns up north, most expect plenty of boos when Andrea is introduced as a starter in Friday night’s exhibition contest between the Knicks and Raptors. Even Raps coach Dwane Casey is anticipating the Ontario Cheer. From the New York Daily News:

“He should probably put on ear plugs,” Casey joked with reporters, anticipating plenty of Toronto boo birds at Friday’s game.

“They can boo (Bargnani) all they want to now,” Casey said. “Fans are going to do what they’re going to do.”

Now, a Friday night postseason game in anticipation of what will probably end up being another lottery-leadin’ season in Toronto is hardly appointment viewing, but because Bargnani symbolizes the failure of the Bryan Colangelo era in Toronto, he’ll get an earful.

Does he deserve it? The National Post’s Eric Koreen wondered as much on Friday in a column a pay wall stopped us from reading, and it’s hard to say. Though he was once a presence in the hallways leading to the court at the Air Canada Centre, the recently let go Colangelo isn’t really around to boo heartily, which is why the Raptors will likely turn their enmity toward Andrea. It was Colangelo, though, that selected Bargs top overall in 2006, and (even worse) it was Colangelo that bid against himself to extend Bargnani’s contract to the tune of five years and $50 million in 2009.

Yes, Bargnani never developed into anything close to even below average as a defender and rebounder, and his offensive skills may be overrated at this point, but again – it was Colangelo that tied the franchise’s fortunes to Bargnani. It was Colangelo that frittered away the promise of the Chris Bosh years with a series of poor signings, deals, and draft picks.

On top of that, the Raptors fans were incredibly lucky to take in a superior shooter in Novak and a series of picks in return for Bargnani. Yes, the last few years have been awful, but this team made it out as best it could – with the 2012-13 Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri in place, and a cogent game plan to turn it all around being tinkered with.

Getting the Bargnani boos out of the way now, with the NBA season still weeks away from tipping off for real, probably won’t hurt anyone. Andrea knows how Raptors fans feel, and it’s not as if Toronto is known for its mean-spirited sniping.

Still, you might want to bring the ear plugs, Bargs.