Il Mago Disappearing

It’s no secret that Andrea Bargnani is struggling in his return to the lineup after a second calf injury, but the numbers really do paint an ugly portrait.

Eight games into his return, Bargnani is averaging just 12.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 0.3 blocks. Even worse, he’s shooting 35 per cent from the field, is three-of-21 from deep, and hasn’t hit the 20-point barrier once since coming back. His Player Efficiency Rating, which was in the low-to-mid 20′s and among the best in the league after 13 games played, has plummeted to 17.68. That’s still above average, but it’s a stark contrast from where he was.

A lot of people seem to be blaming Andrea’s long absence for his rapid decline, and while I think that’s fair to a certain extent, it doesn’t totally excuse his lack of production. I don’t think anyone was expecting the return he had earlier in the season, when he dropped 61 points over two games in Phoenix and Utah after missing two weeks with the original injury, but were they expecting more than this? Yes, and rightfully so.

To his credit, at least Bargnani seems to be owning up to his putrid play. After last night’s six point, five rebound performance, where his assist total (six) was the only positive, Bargnani stated matter of factly multiple times in his post game scrum, “I’m playing really bad offensively.” Yes, Andrea, yes you are.

He also added that while his offensive game has fallen off a cliff, he is trying to play defence and “make the extra pass.” Bargnani’s defensive focus still looks better than last year and seasons prior (how can it not?), but again, it’s nowhere near what we saw in his first 13 games, where he left every ounce of himself on the court.

Watching him over the last couple of weeks, I honestly don’t think this slump is an effort issue, unlike his struggles in previous years. I just think for whatever reason, maybe the injury, tentativeness to go full throttle again for fear of re-aggravating the injury, whatever, Andrea looks uncomfortable out there, and doesn’t seem to have the quickness, the lift or the burst he used to perfection in December and January.

The fact that Bargnani actually acknowledges his poor play and is aware of the importance placed on defence, sadly, is a baby step and a welcomed change from the Andrea of old. But at a certain point down the stretch of this season, we’re going to need to see some results, not necessarily All Star type results like we did at the beginning of the season, but results nonetheless, unless we want to chalk this campaign up as another write-off in his tumultuous career, as Scott mentioned in his thoughts on Wednesday’s game.

If you read RaptorBlog over the last couple of seasons, you know that I was as critical of Andrea’s effort and attitude as anyone else, but I really don’t believe that “Old Andrea” is back. I just think “New Andrea” is having a tough time breaking out of this nasty funk.

Based on the immense promise he showed in that small early season sample, and based on the fact that he seems much more accountable, much more personable, and just a whole lot easier to root for this year, I really am hoping Andrea gives us something to look forward to for next season.