La Dolce Vita turns sour for Raptors' Bargnani

Thu Feb 7, 2013 5:39pm EST
 

By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - Italian forward Andrea Bargnani has seldom experienced La Dolce Vita during seven enigmatic seasons with the National Basketball Association's (NBA) Toronto Raptors.

Despite being the first European taken with the number one pick in an NBA draft and a five-year $50 million extension in 2009, the sweet life has eluded the seven-foot Roman who is losing fan support with play that is often as bewildering as a Federico Fellini film.

Indeed, things have turned decidedly sour for the Italian, who was greeted to a chorus of boos from a frustrated home crowd when he returned to the Raptors lineup on Wednesday against Boston after missing 26 games with elbow and wrist injuries.

"I'm disappointed," Raptors head coach Dwane Casey told reporters after the Raptors fell 99-95 to Boston. "This young man has done nothing to deserve that. He's been hurt.

"Fans have a right to boo, to cheer, to boo me. But I don't think Andrea deserved it, coming back from a serious injury."

With each passing season the criticism has grown louder and more frequent as Bargnani fails to develop into the franchise player expected from a number one overall selection.

Even Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo, who used the top pick in 2006 to claim Bargnani, once labeled him as the "enigma of all enigmas," openly suggesting it might be time to finally trade the 27-year-old.

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Toronto Raptors' Andrea Bargnani sits on the bench during the first half of their NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Toronto, February 6, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch