Friday , Jan , 16 , 2009 C.Y. Ellis

Jermaine O’Neal: Andrea Bargnani Should Start

But his return from a two-week-plus absence with a bruised right knee, whether it happens tonight or later, will not coincide with a debate about who should be in the team’s starting five – at least not immediately. With Andrea Bargnani averaging 22.3 points and 7.1 rebounds as a starter during O’Neal’s nine-game absence, the Italian’s roll will not be rocked.

Jay Triano, the Raptors interim head coach, said O’Neal volunteered to come off the bench to begin.

"He’s earned the right to stay in the starting lineup," said O’Neal of Bargnani.

"I have no ego about that. Some guys would want their starting position back, but I’ve been out for two weeks.

"… I don’t deserve the right to come back and take somebody’s position that has been playing well."