Raptors notebook: Only Bargnani can sway fans

February 24, 2013, 7:34 PM

Will the booing stop?

With the trade deadline passed and Andrea Bargnani in a Raptors uniform for at least the rest of the season, the crowd’s displeasure with the seven-year vet has reached an all-time high. While there were boos and jeers from some of the crowd in his first few games since returning from an elbow injury that sidelined him for 26 games, things intensified on Friday night.

Perhaps it was the fact that the team elected to keep Bargnani in Toronto, or perhaps booing him has become “the thing” to do, but things got out of hand during the Raptors victory’ against the New York Knicks. So out of hand, in fact, that Kyle Lowry took to Twitter after the game to let fans know his thoughts on their decision to boo one of their own.

After a spirited practice on Sunday afternoon, both Bargnani and head coach Dwane Casey discussed the boos. While Casey has already defended his player against the reaction fans have given him, he seemed resigned to the fact that fans will receive players however they want.

“The only person that can control that is Andrea,” Casey said. “He can control the crowd by his play, his approach, his body language, the way he attacks things, how aggressive he is. All of those things, he can control."

“We all hear it. Everybody has the right to boo or cheer for whoever they want to. They have the right to cheer for Carmelo or whoever if they want to. At the end of the day it’s up to that player, whoever it is, whether it’s Andrea, to do something about it. You hush the crowd up, whether it’s at home or the road, by your play. In this league nobody feels sorry for you. It’s a tough league, it’s a non-forgiving league with a short memory. It’s ‘what have you done for me lately.’”

Bargnani was direct in addressing the negative reaction he has received from the home crowd.

“I can’t say I don’t hear it, because it’s (19,000) people. I hear them,” he said.

Casey said that despite the crowd reaction, Bargnani’s demeanour in practice hasn’t changed.

“He works hard on defensive drills, offensive drills,” Casey said. “His demeanour is fine. It’s just the fact that we’ve got to get him aggressive offensively in the game more. In practice he knocks everything down. He’s a weapon for us and we’ve got to get him going.”

Bargnani said he appreciated the support from Lowry. Casey was also pleased with the leadership shown from his point guard.

“It was good,” Casey said. “I think he knows the players are behind him."

“We’ve all spoken out publicly against it, but again, the only person that can do something about that is Andrea. By his approach, hard play, body language, whatever it is. His play, making a bucket, being aggressive defensively, getting a rebound. All of those things can affect the crowd because I do know one thing about Toronto fans: they love hard play, they love physical play, they love aggressive play, they love passion.”

Telfair sidelined, Ross back to business

The newest Raptor wasn’t at practice on Sunday. After showing up for practice feeling under the weather, the team took one look at Sebastian Telfair and sent him home.

“That flu,” Casey said. “I had it over All-Star break and it’s no joke.”

Rookie Terrence Ross bounced back from the illness that kept him from playing against the Knicks on Friday. He participated in Sunday’s practice and showed zero ill-effects from the sickness.

Casey looking forward, not backward

While the arrival of Rudy Gay has certainly given the Raptors team a boost, Casey is not a coach who is allowing himself to play the “what if” game. When asked if he ever thinks about where they might be if Rudy had been with the team for the duration of the season, he quickly kyboshed the question.

“Woulda, coulda, shoulda,” he said. “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts we’d have a merry Christmas.”

The Los Angeles Lakers have dealt with their disappointing start by having a new “starting point” every other week. Casey refuses to allow his team to lose sight of where they are and also where they’re trying to get to.

“We can’t let ourselves go there,” Casey said. “We have too much work in front of us. We have 26 more games to focus on and look at. We can’t look back. What has happened has happened. Our record before Rudy got here, before we got it turned around is what it is. We can’t look at that.”

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