It was supposed to be a new beginning for Andrea Bargnani.
Traded from Toronto to the Knicks in July, Bargnani has a new uniform, new teammates and a new group of hometown fans. Unfortunately for the 7-foot Italian, he also had the same old shooting problems that had plagued him last year in Toronto and in the preseason here with the Knicks.
It took a little more than one quarter as a Knick for Bargnani to hear his first boos at the Garden as fans began to jeer after he missed his fourth consecutive field goal in the second quarter of Wednesday night's 90-83 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. Bargnani, whom the Knicks were hoping would be a secondary scoring option behind Carmelo Anthony, picked up his game somewhat in the second half, finishing with six points and shooting 3-for-9 in 17 minutes of play.
Bargnani's teammates and coach, however, believe that it's only a matter of time before he gets comfortable with their offense and his new surroundings and becomes the scorer they need him to be.
"This is New York. It's the Garden. And it's the show," center Tyson Chandler said. "Once he gets past all of that he'll be fine. All of his teammates love him and we think he's going to be the key. He's going to be huge for us."
Though it's hard to get terribly concerned about statistics in the preseason, Bargnani's numbers were far from huge. He finished the preseason shooting just 38 percent from the field (24-for-63). He also missed 12 of his 15 three-point attempts. With Bargnani on the floor in the preseason, the Knicks were outscored by 65 points.
Bargnani, who started all seven preseason games, did not start Wednesday night because coach Mike Woodson decided that it was better to go with a smaller, three-guard lineup against the Bucks. He could start Thursday night in Chicago, but even if he doesn't, coach Mike Woodson is committed to getting him more playing time.
"I think it's both just understanding what I want and [him] trying to find his niche in terms of what he's capable of doing," Woodson said of the reasons behind Bargnani's struggles. "I understand the young man; I've just got to help him more. There's not a whole lot he's not doing. He's trying to give effort. I've got to help him. It's just the first game: We've got a long way to go. He'll be fine."
Bargnani is hoping that the move to New York will rejuvenate his career after seven difficult years in Toronto. The No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft, Bargnani never panned out to be the next Dirk Nowitzki or Pau Gasol. During the past two seasons in Toronto, he appeared in 66 games.
After Wednesday night's game, however, he was feeling pretty good about his new team.
"I'm not concerned about my offense," Bargnani said. "It's never been a problem. I'm still out of rhythm right now. I'm not worried about my offense."