Legend of Bargnani grows

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:12 PM ET

TREVISO, Italy -- So far, Andrea Bargnani's return to his native land has been a walk in the park. Literally.

Yesterday, the native of Rome went for a stroll through his adopted hometown, Treviso, and also gave members of the media a tour of La Ghirada, the Benetton Treviso training facility where he lived, trained and played from 2003 to 2006.

Bargnani has been stopped for autographs everywhere he has gone in this northern Italian town and has, of course, taken part in the Raptors twice daily training sessions at La Ghirada.

And his time in Italy is expected to get even more hectic.

Today, the Raptors move on to Rome, Bargnani's real hometown, where he is extremely popular.

In fact, tomorrow, the mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, will present Bargnani with a gift at City Hall. According to his longtime agent, Antonio Ricciotti, Bargnani and Veltroni, who also is a key member of Italy's Democrats of the Left political party, are very good friends. Ricciotti said the presentation will mean a lot to the normally reserved Bargnani.

"You'll see at the mayor's office, he's going to be very emotional," Ricciotti said. "Probably as he ever has been."

Ricciotti said Bargnani's relationship with the mayor is true friendship and not one made of political convenience.

"They're very close, which is not politics at all," Ricciotti said. "It's just the Roman thing."

Veltroni is a former member of the Italian Communist party, but Ricciotti said that Bargnani has done well to affiliate himself with someone like the mayor.

"The mayor is one of the most influential political people in Italy and he's running to become the new leader of (Democrats of the Left) party.

Game on

The Raptors held their first scrimmage of the season last night, at Benetton Treviso's home arena, La Palaverde. Bargnani, Raptors assistant GM Maurizio Gherardini and Jorge Garbajosa, who played here for four seasons, all received standing ovations from the crowd. A huge dunk by third-year forward Joey Graham over 6-foot-11 Chris Bosh also drew a huge cheer from the crowd, and Graham's coach was impressed.

"I went down and handed (Chris) my towel because I told him he just got %^$# on," coach Sam Mitchell said.

Graham had a big game, scoring 25 points, and said that he is going to have a career year. Anthony Parker scored 22 as his side defeated Graham's side, 105-96. Bosh had 10 rebounds for the winners while Jose Calderon had 11 assists for the losers.


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