Whether it's his laconic play, blase appearance, his aversion to
rebounding, or his overplayed pasta
commercials, Andrea Bargnani has earned the wrath of many Raptors fans. In typical Toronto fashion, however, there has been way too much introspection on what fans' recent booings of Bargnani mean.
The up-and-down season of the Toronto Raptors has seen a bit more of the downs, so even before Monday's home loss to the Washington Wizards, dreams of the post-season were in all likelihood just that -- dreams.
Yet Monday night's mostly passionless display -- aside from the team's genuinely entertaining Harlem Shake video released before the game -- should all but provide coffin nails for the Raptors' season, at least metaphorically. When Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry combine for 7-of-28 shooting (many on open looks) from the floor, the Raptors usually aren't going to win. When the team doesn't show up at home against one of the league's worst teams, it's difficult to call them a playoff squad with a straight face.
The loss was virtually a carbon copy of Toronto's home defeat to Memphis five days earlier, with the big exception being that the Grizzlies are a defensively tough playoff team.
Common in both Raptor losses were the struggles of Gay and Lowry. We know by now that Gay is a high-volume shooter (even though he took only 11 shots Monday with DeMar DeRozan providing Toronto's only real spark offensively). High-volume shooting lends itself to lower shooting percentages. Since coming to the Raptors, Gay is shooting at a mere 37.5 per cent clip on just under 20 shots per game. Those are not numbers you want from the best player on your team.
Most were aware when Gay arrived in Toronto that he is not a superstar. And that's not to take away from his skill set, his ability to break down his man and make a big shot, or the better-than-expected chemistry he's found with DeRozan. The Raptors are unquestionably a better team with him than without him. Take away the team's 4-19 start sans Rudy, and Toronto is in the playoffs. But to view him as a next-level player is to view him as something he has never demonstrated.
Andrea Bargnani appeared to exhibit a little more hustle Monday night, even if his shots weren't falling. The boos that followed a missed open 15-footer became cheers after he drove and dropped a reverse layup.
Bargnani booings: Get over it
So a word on the Bargnani booings that have been dissected and overanalyzed the past few days:
Bargnani is in his seventh year in the league and is having his second-worst season shooting the ball. To call the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft a bust is ridiculous, but he is what he is. Put him on a deeper team, his skills stand out more positively. But here and now, whether it's his laconic play, blase appearance, his aversion to rebounding, his association with Bryan Colangelo or his overplayed pasta commercials, he's earned the wrath of many Raptors fans. While it's certainly asinine to boo him for missing a throw-up shot as the clock winds down, or even to come down hard on him after returning from injury, those are spectators for you.
Most fans pay money (lots of it) to attend games and, right or wrong, they reserve the right to vociferate their opinions. The Raptors have consistently remained in the upper half of NBA attendance for the last decade despite some awful basketball on the floor.
In typical Toronto fashion, however, there has been way too much introspection on what this booing means. Some incorrectly offer that most Air Canada Centre basketball fans don't have enough basketball acumen, and take them to task for cheering for free pizza. Right. Just like fans of the Los Angeles Lakers (many of whom show up "fashionably late") did in the early 2000s when Taco Bell offered free chalupas if the Lakers scored more than 100.
While I would never confuse the basketball savvy of the ACC faithful with that of Madison Square Garden's fans, are we to believe that Bargnani wouldn't be booed there if he had performed similarly for the Knicks?
The overanalysis of Toronto sports fans is annoying. I will bet large sums of money that no city spends as much energy examining such trivial aspects of its existence. Yet I suppose it is part and parcel of Toronto's insecurity in general.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a British guy who had lived in London and now calls Toronto home. He said he had never heard the term "world-class city" used until he moved here (as in used by, and obsessed over, by locals ).
Get over the introspection. It's booing, which, like cheering, is a part of sports. Are some sports fans meatheads? Is water wet?
John ChickAlmost as cynical as a Toronto sports fan can get, John Chick has been around the NBA and other sports in one capacity or another for a decade, working at outlets such as Metro News Canada, Sun Media and TSN. He blogs on the NBA for CBCSports.ca and wishes Charles Oakley still played.