Okay, so it won’t be finalised until July 10, and it could still go wrong, but a deal sending Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks appears all but done. However, despite the majority of Raptors fans being overjoyed to see the former number one overall draft pick leave, I’m actually going to miss the big lug.
Bargnani’s arrival in 2006 coincided with my flying over to Toronto for the first time. What followed, was a magical campaign that included a first ever divisional title, a franchise record-equalling 47 wins and a trip to the postseason against the hated Vince Carter and the Nets.
I went to over half the games during that 2006/07 season, including the playoffs, making it easy for me to become a Raptors fan. (Boy, have I been made to pay for that ever since.) And in many ways, I associate Bargnani with that season, hence why I think I’ve always been in his corner.
The Italian flattered to deceive time and time again, but I was convinced he was going to become a big star. It finally looked like his time had arrived during Dwane Casey’s first season in charge, with Bargnani leading the team in scoring and sometimes even playing hard on defence.
Unfortunately this past season, even I had to concede it was never going to happen for Bargnani in Toronto and his departure is the right move for all concerned. However, I’ll always root for the guy and I hope he does well in New York.
As such, here’s my top eight moments from ll Mago’s time with the Raptors. Trust me, you’ll almost wish he wasn’t leaving after seeing these highlights:
1) GAME WINNER VERSUS PORTLAND IN OVERTIME
Early on in his rookie season, Bargnani’s demeanour convinced me that he was the man you wanted taking the final shot in any close games. And if you listen to Chuck Swirsky and Jack Armstrong, it certainly sounds like they were also coming to the same conclusion. (Actually, I’m not sure if they’re the best people to be using as part of my defence.)
2) PLAYOFF ELIMANTION GAME VERSUS NETS
Adding ammunition to my belief that Bargnani had ice in his veins, was his performances during the 2007 playoffs against the Nets. And nowhere was this better illustrated than game 5, which doubled as an elimination game for the Raptors.
Bargnani came our firing, scoring 13 points in the 1st quarter, as the team took a 33-13 lead. For some reason, his teammates didn’t look for him as much during the rest of the game and they ending up hanging on for 98-96 victory. However, the Italian still finished with 18 points, shooting 67% on just 9 attempts, together with 4 rebounds, 1 steal and a block.
3) BARGNANI SENDS VINCE CARTER TO THE FLOOR
What better way to endear yourself to the Raptors fanbase than throwing Vince Carter’s whiney ass to the floor! And the fact the normally laid-back Bargnani followed this up by jawing with the artist formerly known as ‘Air Canada’, just made it even more satisfying.
4) BARGNANI BLOCKS AND SCORES ON YAO MING
Who said Bargnani can’t play defence?! Okay, fine. Even I admitted this. But you still have to love this block on Yao Ming, punctuated by everyone’s favourite Italian scoring on the former Rockets centre at the other end of the court.
5) DOUBLE BLOCK ON NOWITZKI AND SINGLETON
If you thought seeing Bargnani block was a rare sight, how about this: A double block on the player he was most often compared to and some other guy who doesn’t matter as much.
6) REVERSE DUNK VERSUS THE LAKERS
In basketball, not much beats seeing a spectacular dunk, especially when it comes from a player not renowned for showing his emotions on the court. Now, make it a reverse dunk against the Lakers and you’ve really got something special.
7) DUNKS ON TWO PLAYERS AT THE SAME TIME
There is perhaps only one way Bargnani could top his previous dunk and here it is: Dunking on two players at the same time.
8 ) 38 POINTS AGAINST MIAMI’S BIG THREE
And finally, you’ll have to forgive me for the extended video clip above. However, I wanted to highlight the potential awesomeness of Bargnani and what better example than his 38-point explosion against the Miami Heat’s ‘Big Three’.
Yes, I know the Raptors lost 103-95, but the Italian almost single-handedly kept them in the game against a team headed toward the first of three consecutive NBA Finals appearances.
Good bye Mr Bargnani. I wish it could have turned out better, but at least we’ll always have the 2006/07 season.
Photo credit: @KoziFbaby
If you have any tips or information about any of Toronto’s sports teams, please email me at Englishpaul@hotmail.co.uk
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