Andrea Bargnani’s first game at the Air Canada Centre as a visitor wasn’t one he will particularly care to remember, but it could have been a lot worse.
DeMar DeRozan scored twenty points on Friday as the Toronto Raptors beat the New York Knicks 100-91 in pre-season action.
Bargnani scored 10 points in 22 minutes of play and received a tepid reception from the Toronto crowd. A particularly disgruntled fan yelled out, “You suck, Bargnani,” in between the American and Canadian anthems, but the 27-year-old didn’t seem to take the boos to heart.
“The fans have the right to do whatever they feel they want to do,” Bargnani said after the game. “We had some good years, we had some bad years. a The only thing I have to say about the fans in Toronto is that I was lucky to play here for seven years.”
The booing from the half-filled arena wasn’t as bad as expected.
“It was actually not that bad,” Amir Johnson said. “I heard some cheers, I heard a little bit of boos awe always had great battles in practice just going back and forth. He looked pretty good out there. I just wish the best for him.”
The seven-foot, 256-pound Bargnani was drafted first overall by Toronto in 2006, and went on to average 15.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game over seven seasons with the team.
The Raptors tried to push Bargnani as the face of the franchise during his seven-year tenure with the organization, but fans failed to embrace him as the team had hoped.
Shortly after DeRozan was drafted ninth overall in 2009, the shift to market DeRozan as the new face of the future began. Four years later, with Rudy Gay at DeRozan’s side, the two hope to be the one-two punch needed to help the Raptors end a five-year playoff drought.
“He’s been here a long time,” DeRozan said of his former teammate. “Way before I was here. Sometimes you just need a new home. A new place to start over and regroup and figure out a new identity.”
Through three pre-season games, DeRozan is turning heads. The fifth-year swingman continued his strong showing with a 15-point first half, on 7-for-15 shooting from the field and 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
Toronto’s coaching staff has stressed attacking the basket to DeRozan.
“I was eighth or whatever it was in free throws in the league (last season),” he said. “My goal is to try to get into the top five of free throws and that comes with being aggressive.”
Carmelo Anthony led New York with a game-high 24 points and added eight rebounds.
The Knicks took a four-point lead into the fourth quarter after three tight quarters of basketball. After playing his starters throughout the first half, Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey elected to go with his reserves in the final frame.
Quincy Acy got into the game for his first minutes of action this season and the move paid off. Acy and fellow sophomore Terrence Ross combined to provide late-game heroics by reeling off their own 11-0 run to lead the Raptors to victory.
“Quincy Acy got our attention, the coaching staff’s attention,” Casey said. “We knew what he could do, he’s working his behind off. There’s nothing free, you get an opportunity to go in and play, you take advantage of it. When your number’s called, it’s an opportunity to go in there and do something and play and produce and he did that.”
The Raptors next head to Minnesota to face the Timberwolves on Saturday night.
They open the regular season at home against the Celtics on Oct. 30.