Under media microscope

Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani begins training camp in Italy, his home country. (Sun File/Jack...

Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani begins training camp in Italy, his home country. (Sun File/Jack Boland)

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:44 AM ET

Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani goes by the nickname Il Mago (The Magician) back home in Italy.

Which is good, because he may need the power to disappear at times given the media scrutiny he is expected to be under when the Raptors touch down in Treviso, Italy on Sept. 29 for the first day of training camp.

The Raptors will train in Treviso, where Bargnani played for two seasons in Lega A (Italy's top basketball league), from Sept. 29-Oct. 4, before heading to Rome, where Bargnani was born and raised, for pre-season games against the Boston Celtics (Oct. 6) and home side Lottomatica Vitrus Roma (Oct. 7).

In both cities, it's expected that the Italian and Toronto media will clamour for interview time with the young NBA standout, above and beyond the usual 15-minute scrums.

Still, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo is not overly worried that the 21-year-old Italian sports icon will be distracted to the point where it will affect his training -- although head coach Sam Mitchell certainly expressed those concerns in a conference call with the European media last week.

"He will be pulled in 15 difference directions, as will Garbo (Jose Garbajosa) and Jose (Calderon) in Spain," Colangelo said yesterday. "But they're European stars and we're visiting their home countries and, in the case of Bargnani, his home city. But this is nothing new to them."

Bargnani certainly was under the media microscope when he played for Treviso as a teenager, averaging 15.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.85 steals during his final year in the Italian league when he was named Top European Young Player.

After the two games in Rome next week, the Raptors head to Madrid where they will play European powerhouse Real Madrid on Oct. 11, a homecoming for Garbajosa and Calderon.

Colangelo, who has deep ties to Italy, does not share Mitchell's worries that there will be too many distractions in Europe for the Raptors, particularly the European players.

Still, the Raptors certainly have more than just training and pre-season games on the docket when they get to Europe.

There will be a number of open practices and scrimmages, including an Oct. 3 scrimmage in Treviso before 200 U.S. military personnel and their families.

After touching down in Rome on Oct. 4, the Raptors will attend a meet and greet session at the Canadian Embassy and, the next day, some players will take part in a court dedication, along with the Celtics and the Virtus Roma team.

In Madrid, members of the team will take part in a Basketball & Education Youth Outreach reception at the U.S. Embassy.

On top of all that, the Raptors management plans some other social events for the team, such as spending an afternoon touring Venice. But again, Colangelo said there will be enough time between the European and Toronto portions of the pre-season to ensure that the players are well rested for the regular season.

The Raptors who played at the recent European championships in Spain -- Calderon and Garbajosa (both with Spain), Bargnani (with Italy) and Rasho Nesterovic (with Slovenia) -- remained in their respective countries after the event.

The rest of the team departs Toronto for Treviso on Friday night.


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