Bargnani runs afoul

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell plans to give his prized rookie Andrea Bargnani lots of playing time in the pre-season.

Basically to see what kind of player he has.

But for that to happen, Bargnani has to figure out a way to stay on the floor. The big rookie didn't do himself any favours last night in his first taste of NBA action, picking up five fouls in 13 minutes, as the Raptors came back to defeat the Washington Wizards 93-88 in their first pre-season game of the year.

Mitchell substituted for Bargnani, the first pick in the 2006 draft, midway through the first quarter at the Verizon Center and he responded by picking up three fouls in four minutes, before being summoned back to the bench.

The 7-foot Italian finished the game with eight points, four rebounds, five fouls, and a sore right foot. All in all, Mitchell said he was satisfied with the kid's debut.

"It just happens, there's no way around the growing pains," Mitchell said of the fouls. "You have to pay your dues, especially big guys. I thought Andrea did some good things, he picked up defensively what we wanted him to do."

Another rookie, Jorge Garbajosa, who struggled with his shot in the first three quarters (1-for-6) stepped up with 38 seconds left and sunk a 24-foot jump shot to give the Raptors the dramatic victory, only the third time the Toronto has won the pre-season opener (and the second time against the Wizards).

Garbajosa said that his early slump was likely the result of first-game jitters.

"I was very excited before the game," he said. "In the first quarter I felt a little bit lost ... but it's a very happy day for me."

Mitchell, meanwhile, liked what he saw on defence.

"Even if we would have lost, I was still pleased with what I saw, because guys are getting it," Mitchell said.

Mitchell started three newcomers, point guard T.J. Ford, centre Rasho Nesterovic and forward Anthony Parker, along with forward Chris Bosh and shooting guard Morris Peterson -- a starting five that likely will not change much this season.

And he used his bench much more than Washington coach Eddie Jordan.

With the exception of Slovenian forward Uros Slokar and 2006 second-round pick P.J. Tucker, all nine Raptors received some minutes last night and it was a mixed start. Nesterovic struggled the most, shooting 0-for-5 from the field with zero points and three rebounds.

Parker, who came to the Raptors via Maccabi Tel Aviv, managed five points and five rebounds in 27 minutes.

Mitchell praised his bench players with coming up big defensively in the second half and stealing the win.


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