The news for Andrea Bargnani isn’t good, but it also doesn’t sound that bad right now. Dwane Casey told reporters today that Bargnani is “day-to-day” with a calf strain, and is unlikely to play tonight against the Pacers.
If it’s any indication, last season Bargnani missed four games with a similar injury.
The news comes as a bit of a disappointment for Raptors fans, but also as a welcomed bump in the road for those embracing the “Tank-Nation” philosophy, who want this team to find a way to lose at whatever cost.
If Andrea is forced to miss an extended period of time, I don’t think Tank-Nation will have to worry, as this team looked bad enough to land in the high portion of the Draft Lottery with “Il Mago,” let alone without him.
Simply put, Bargnani has been outstanding this season. He’s eighth in the NBA in scoring with 22.3 points per game on 48.9 per cent shooting. While his rebounding numbers still aren’t superb, he is on pace for a career-high in rebounds per game (6.5) and has already matched his entire output from last season with two double-digit rebounding performances.
Bargnani has also demonstrated some great court vision and is on pace for a career-high in assists per game, and for the second year in a row, he’s attempted more free throws than he has three-pointers. His Player Efficiency Rating of just under 22 dwarfs his previous career-high of 16.5.
If you’ve watched enough Raptors basketball through the first couple weeks of the season, you can’t deny that Bargnani is playing like an All Star right now. If he can get back on the floor without missing much time and picks up where he left off, the only thing that can keep him away from All Star weekend is the fact that the Raptors will likely already have a pitiful record by then (I don’t agree with the theory that you should play for a winning team to be an All Star. Team success is for the MVP race, not to decide who the league’s All Stars are).
After playing surprisingly well through six games, the Raps have looked mostly horrible over the last week, which included home losses to the Nets and Kings and a loss to the previously winless Wizards. That recent stretch has Toronto sitting at 4-7, but looking at the schedule, that could quickly become 4-16, especially with an absent or banged up Bargnani.
Toronto’s next nine games are:
vs. Pacers, @ Bulls, @ Hawks, @ Celtics, vs. Blazers, @ Clippers, @ Suns, @ Jazz, @ Nuggets
Seven or eight of those teams will likely be playoff teams in the NBA this season, seven of those nine games are on the road, and four of the nine come as part of a Western road trip that always finds a way to derail the Raptors season.
If you told me the Raps would lose all nine of those matchups with a healthy Bargnani, I’d find it easy to believe. If Bargnani isn’t healthy, I’ll pretty much expect 0-9.
From the negatives of being without Andrea Bargnani and a potential 10-game losing streak, there is the possibility for a couple of positives to arise. DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis.
Most Raptors fans, including myself, were really looking forward to the expected improvements of DeRozan and Davis this season. DeMar looked solid through the first six games. He was shooting the lights out, at least putting in an effort on D and along with Bargnani, was one-half of the NBA’s third-leading scoring duo.
But his game has fallen off of a cliff since then. He’s not confident, he’s not hitting shots, he’s not getting calls, and it really looks like he’s running around in a daze.
As for Davis, I honestly thought he would be the most improved Raptor this season and would really stamp his place in the future of this franchise. Now by no means am I giving up on Ed, we’re only one-sixth of the way through this condensed season, but he has to start showing us something soon.
Davis is averaging 5.5 points and five rebounds in just 18.7 minutes per game. It’s easy to say Dwane Casey should give Ed more minutes, but as Casey recently pointed out, the staff wants to develop Davis, but they’re not going to gift-wrap minutes for players if they don’t earn those minutes. With Bargnani off to a hot start and Amir Johnson working his tail off, there wasn’t much playing time available for an inconsistent Davis.
Both 22-year-olds have to use Bargnani’s absence as a stepping stone. Without Andrea in the lineup, Davis should start at power forward and get a ton of minutes on the floor. This is his chance to shake off the early season rust.
As for DeRozan, he will become the team’s go-to scorer. It can be a great opportunity for DeMar to show how far his game has come over the last year, or to show how far it has inexplicably fallen off.