When Andrea Bargnani limped off of the floor in Utah on Wednesday night, then proceeded to tell reporters that he would likely be out for a while, and that his re-aggravated calf injury was “much worse” than the last time, we assumed we’d have to get used to life without Bargnani again, just a few days after trying to get reacquainted to life with A.B.
Now an MRI in Denver has concluded that Bargnani did not suffer any structural damage, but that there is also no timetable for his return. Based on the fact that the calf strain he suffered in a loss to the Kings earlier this month kept him out of action for 13 days and six games, I’m just going to assume that Bargs will be out for at least that long again.
Given that the All Star game is already just a month away, I think we can kiss any hopes of Andrea being there in Orlando goodbye. As most of us have already said repeatedly, the shame is that Bargnani was enjoying an All Star caliber season, despite the fact that he only played in 13 of the team’s 19 games.
Bargnani was averaging 23.5 points (sixth in the NBA) on 47.6 per cent shooting to go along with 6.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and a Player Efficiency Rating of 22.48 (17th in the NBA). Most impressive, Bargnani had transformed himself from a defensive liability to the hardest working player on the defensive side of the ball. That work ethic translated into Bargnani boasting the NBA’s best individual defensive rating.
Watching the hustle and passion Bargnani was playing with this season, evidenced by his visible frustration (throwing his mouth-guard, tearing his hair out) when he realized he had re-injured his calf, was a treat for Raptors fans. Yes, it was only a 13-game sample, and we likely won’t see Bargnani try to build on that performance until weeks from now, but as I wrote recently, I think the Raptors and Raptors fans are beginning to realize that they just might have an All Star power forward in their lineup for the next few years.
As for the Raptors as a team. With Bargnani in the lineup, they’ve actually gone 6-7 this season, and are 6-5 when he plays 30 minutes or more. Not to mention, three of those six wins have come at Madison Square Garden, at Phoenix and at Utah. I don’t think it’s crazy to look at those results, then look at the Eastern Conference, and believe that with a healthy Bargnani, the Raptors could have made a run at the East’s eighth seed.
The ugly side of the Raptors’ first quarter of the season, of course, occurred without Andrea in the lineup. The team is 0-6 without him, and 0-8 in games he played less than 30 minutes. The difference in their level of play is staggering.
With Andrea, they are a surprisingly good defensive team that can balance it out with a decent offence. Without Andrea, they are an average defensive team that scores just 81 points per game themselves.
Looking at the schedule, it might be difficult for the Raptors to pick up that elusive win sans Bargnani any time soon. Toronto’s next seven games are either against winning teams or are against teams that have already beaten the Raptors this season, with five of those seven matchups coming on the road.
If Bargnani’s latest setback keeps him out of action for a while, then it might be time to consider that the back-to-back road wins over the Suns and Jazz may have been as good as it gets for the Raptors this season.