Worlds not a priority

Raptors' top pick Andrea Bargnani holds a team jersey with general manager Bryan Colangelo and...

Raptors' top pick Andrea Bargnani holds a team jersey with general manager Bryan Colangelo and assistant general manager Maurizio Gherardini at a news conference at the Air Canada Centre yesterday. (Toronto Sun/Mark O'Neill)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

The mayor of Rome compared Andrea Bargnani with Francesco Totti yesterday, calling the Raptors' No. 1 draft pick and the soccer star two of Italy's most recognizable sporting figures.

But on the world stage, Totti may be the only one wearing Azzurri blue this year.

The 7-foot, 245-pound Bargnani, who was applauded by employees from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. yesterday after arriving at the Air Canada Centre to meet the media, said his top goal is being ready for the NBA season, not playing for Italy at the world championship later this summer in Japan.

The prospect of a Chris Bosh-Bargnani matchup Aug. 23 when the United States faces Italy appears slim.

"I think my first target is to become ready in November to play in the NBA," Bargnani, 20, said. "I will do what the coach tells me to do to be ready. If I have to work in the summer on something, I will work in the summer on that because I want to be ready for the NBA."

To that end, Bargnani will begin his NBA career Monday in Las Vegas when he takes part in his first summer league practice with the Raptors. His first summer league game is Thursday. After the summer league ends, the Raptors and Bargnani will make a decision on the worlds.

"I want to do what's right for Andrea," Raptors president/general manager Bryan Colangelo said. "He just got off a long season. I think he played 81 games. It was a fatiguing season also, taking it right through the championship series.

"We're going to roll into summer league and see what condition he is in. Obviously, there will be input from Andrea and his representatives. I think he'll take it one step at a time. I think it's important we have him prepared for the NBA season and the rigors that are to come."

The Raptors will have strong worlds representation. Bosh, Roko Ukic (Croatia), Pape Sow (Senegal), Uros Slokar and Rasho Nesterovic (Slovenia), Jose Calderon (Spain) and Raptor-to-be Jorge Garbajosa (Spain) all are strong candidates.

In Italy yesterday, Rome mayor Walter Veltroni called the Raptors' selection of Bargnani an "historic event." But it wasn't quite historic enough to knock the Italian soccer team's quest for World Cup glory off front pages back home.

"That's impossible," Bargnani, a big Lazio fan, said with a smile.

Next up for the Raptors is the start of the free agency negotiation period tomorrow. Players can sign starting July 11.


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