Adam ZagoriaWhen the Knicks held their annual Media Day on Monday, Andrea Bargnani was not given a starring role on the dais in front of the assembled media.
Instead, the Italian 7-footer was relegated to a stool in the back of the gym, where he spoke while Tyson Chandler was on the dais.
It seemed odd, considering that Bargnani was one of the team’s major offseason acquisitions — along with Metta World Peace and the rookie Tim Hardaway Jr.
Still, Bargnani’s low-key introduction to the Knicks could serve as a perfect analogy to his actual role on the team.
It is not major right now, but could expand significantly, especially with Amar’e Stoudemire’s health questionable going forward.
“My main focus right now is to get back in great shape because the last two years in Toronto I had lots of injury, unfortunately,” Bargnani said. “So I want to get back in shape and once I’m there I’m going to do whatever coach asks me to do in order to help the team win. I can play different positions so I’m going to do whatever the team needs me to do.”
Bargnani, 27, was unable to play with Italy this summer in the European Championships because he was battling pneumonia, but says he’s OK now.
“I was pretty sick but now I’m good, it was in the past,” he said. “I’m back. Last week I practiced. I was here for workouts several days. Right now I’m OK, then I get back to the game shape in training camp.”
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, Bargnani averaged 12.7 points and just 3.7 rebounds in 35 games last year in Toronto, while battling injuries. He was acquired by former Knicks GM Glen Grunwald to help the Knicks space the floor with his shooting. For his career, he averages 15.2 points per game.
With the addition of Bargnani and World Peace, the Knicks now have more options in the frontcourt alongside Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire, who said he hopes to play “20-25 minutes” per game after his third knee surgery in 12 months. The team had great success last season with Anthony at the four in a small lineup, and head coach Mike Woodson will now have various options to work with, including starting World Peace at the three and Anthony at the four, and using Bargnani off the bench. Woodson said he still must determine if he will keep playing Anthony at the four this season.
“Bringing Bargnani in kind of opens thinks up a little bit because he’s a talented offensive player that can be a nightmare for fours and fives,” Woodson said.
He added of Bargnani: “He’s in pretty good shape. Vet camp with get a lot of these guys in regular-season shape. I was very excited about bringing Andrea on board with the Knicks. I think he’s a talented 7-footer that can do a lot of things from an offensive standpoint. Defensively, I think he will be fine once he learns rotations and learns the defensive system that we will put in. But I like the makeup of what he brings. He can pass the ball, he can shoot it, we can post him some. He gives us another really nice offensive weapon on the ballclub so I look forward to coaching him.’
After a long postseason drought in Toronto, Bargnani is anxious to help the Knicks make a run toward a title.
“It’s a new experience,” he said. “I don’t see this as a redemption from something. Toronto was great. I had a great time there. Of course there was a lot of frustration at the end but that’s normal when you don’t make the playoffs for five straight years.
“And so I see this as a great experience. I’m honored to wear this jersey and it’s exciting to play with such a good team. It’s so competitive and wants to advance in the playoffs and this is just amazing to me.”
Adam Zagoria covers the New York Knicks and Big East hoops for NBA.com and SNY.tv. He also appears as a Big East Basketball Insider on SNY and 1050 ESPN Radio. You can follow him on Twitter and read his blog.