If Bargnani struggles, Felton plans to keep feeding him the ball

Adam Zagoria, Team Reporter

Andrea Bargnani struggled in his Knicks regular-season debut, but point guard Raymond Felton says he will keep feeding the Italian Stallion the ball. Asked what he planned to do after Bargnani went 3-for-9, including 0-for-3 from the arc, en route to just 6 points in 17 minutes in Wednesday’s win over Milwaukee, Felton didn’t hesitate.

USATSI_7512058_110579513_lowres“Tell him to keep shooting, that’s the only thing he can do,” Felton said.

“He’s still gotta take those shots and it’s my job to make sure he keeps taking them. Everybody goes through a slump and he’s on a new team trying to get familiar with the offense. So he’s going to struggle at first but we still need him to take those shots and I’m going to demand him taking those shots.”

The fact that his teammates think Bargnani is in a “slump” after just one game can’t be considered a good sign. But the former No. 1 pick shot just 38 percent in the preseason and was demoted from the starting lineup when coach Mike Woodson opted to start two point guards — Felton and Pablo Prigioni — in a small lineup along with Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler.

“He is trying to give effort and I have to help him,” Woodson said of Bargnani. “It is the first game, he will be fine. I have to play him more. He only played 17, 18 minutes tonight based on his lineup being small. He will get his minutes and he will be back to the way he is used to playing. I have to push him there.”

Bargnani heard boos from the Garden crowd in his first game in New York, but insists he’s not worried about his offensive “slump.”

“Not concerned about the offense. Never been a problem. It’s a transition. If it’s an open shot I’m going to take it,” Bargnani told reporters. “I’m still out of rhythm right now. First half I was out of rhythm.”

Harris Decker

It’s definitely what you want to hear out of Felton, but it is concerning that this “slump” is being called out after just one game.

I think Bargnani is a key to this team taking things to the next level, but if he struggles shooting the ball, it’s going to be a major problem. He makes almost no impact on the defensive side of the ball (although he’s been better than advertised by Toronto), and his ability to perform comes from shooting outside and getting to the basket.

If he can’t do those things with greater efficiency, there could be a big problem for the Knicks this year.