After a couple of games where he was ruled out at the last minute, Andrea Bargnani will finally return to the lineup against the Celtics tonight after missing the last eight weeks with an elbow injury.
Andrea Bargnani makes first reserve appearance since December 29, 2008, ending a streak of 245 consecutive starts. #Raptors
— RaptorsMR (@RaptorsMR) February 6, 2013
While I may not be foolish enough to wipe the slate clean with Bargnani like so many Raptors fans naively do every time he returns from injury or starts a new season, I am genuinely looking forward to seeing how well or how miserably Bargnani fits into this new-look Raptors lineup. I’m also interested to see how quickly he earns his starting spot back. With Ed Davis playing as well as he was, nobody wanted Andrea’s name to be called with the rest of the starters, but with Davis gone, the Raptors’ only options at power forward are Amir Johnson in a big lineup that also features Aaron Gray/Jonas Valanciunas, Rudy Gay or maybe Landry Fields in a small lineup, or Quincy Acy in a lineup that would likely indicate the Raptors are under-manned.
More than anything, I’d like to see how Bargnani looks in a lineup where Gay attracts more of the opposition’s attention. Earlier this season, when Andrea was actually shooting better from three-point range than two-point territory, I often mentioned that he had reduced himself to nothing more than a three-point specialist. Unfortunately, even his three-point shooting eventually tailed off (he’s shooting 31.9% on the season from deep), and the truth is that he hasn’t shot better than 35 per cent from beyond the arc in a season in three years (2009-10), which just happens to be the last time he played regular minutes with a teammate that consistently drew double-teams.
At the very least, with Pau Gasol getting injured last night and the only trade options out there for Bargnani likely players on bad contracts of their own, I’d like to see how he looks in a few games coming off the bench as a second unit scorer.
It’s not ideal, but the circumstances may dictate that Bargnani sticks around until at least the end of the season. If so, we’re stuck in “wait and see” mode yet again when it comes to the “enigma of ell enigmas.”