In a league built on the chest thump and the rafter-shaking dunk, Bargnani seemed unemotional and, by association, unengaged. He arrived as a 20-year-old who spoke little. Seven years later his English has improved luxuriously but he doesn’t speak, publicly at least, a whole lot more than he did that first year.
That said, he never dissed the franchise, never demanded a better cast around him. He never packaged himself as a player who cared too much, a player frustrated by losing or the team’s inability to grab a playoff spot. He seemed distant and maybe, because of that, somehow untrustworthy to the same fans who gobbled up his bobblehead during his rookie season. If they were right, or even fair, I cannot say.
“We collectively decided that a fresh start for both parties was the best way to move forward,” said GM Masai Ujiri and there is no arguing with that.
The first European first overall pick, Bargnani was a franchise-defining selection but not a franchise-defining player. That is his legacy here.
It needn’t be his story in New York. If he plays well and the Knicks win, watch for what was seen as nonchalance here to be re-imagined as transcendent Italian cool.