Toronto Star

His wonky calf covered with a black compression sleeve, Andrea Bargnani went through his paces in a quiet end of the Air Canada Centre on Monday afternoon, ready to rejoin his teammates after a three-game absence.

He can’t come back soon enough for a team ravaged with injuries and carrying the weight of 11 losses in its last 14 games to push it further down among the dregs of the NBA’s Eastern Conference.

It will now be up to Bargnani to hit the ground running in games in Chicago on Tuesday, in Cleveland on Wednesday and in Boston on Friday.

“I didn’t play for a week and a half so hopefully it’s not going to be a big deal,” he said. “Of course, I have to get back I in shape a little bit and hopefully it’ll be an easy thing.”

Whatever the team’s leading scorer can give the Raptors will be welcomed. Even though DeMar DeRozan had two breakout games with a career-best 37 points in Houston on Friday and a team-best 27 against Boston on Sunday, Toronto’s overall offence has been less than impressive in Bargnani’s absence.

The trick now is to keep DeRozan going at his current pace while also allowing Bargnani to get his typical 20 points a night.

“When Andrea comes back, we’re going to need them both to score so he (DeRozan) has got to find the in-between somewhere where he can still take the ball to the basket,” said coach Jay Triano. “I don’t think Andrea will take that away from him because Andrea is lifted a lot (out on the perimeter in Toronto’s offence).

“We’ll have to get Andrea touches but at the same time, DeMar’s going to have open floor to play with.”

Globe and Mail

Or ask Andrea Bargnani what it’s like to watch a game instead of play in one.

“It’s boring. It’s like, the worst thing,” said the seven-foot centre, who’s watched six of the Raptors’ previous eight games because of a calf injury.

Injuries are part of professional sports, but Toronto has been stuck with more than its fair share in recent weeks. The team kicks off a three-game road trip in Chicago on Tuesday against the Bulls, and it’s difficult to predict just who will be left standing when they wrap up in Boston versus the Celtics on Friday.

Clearly, the hobbled ones are antsy.

“This is the worst thing I’ve ever had in my life,” said Sonny Weems, who along with Evans (broken foot) and Stojakovic (swollen knee) will be grounded for the trip.

Since Weems was suddenly sidelined with back spasms on Dec. 17, the 24-year-old shooting guard has come to appreciate stretching for the first time in his life. “Guys around my age, we really don’t pay attention to stretching that much. We think it’s all just BS. But, I mean, it’s very important. You can see what I have to go through.”

Forward Amir Johnson did not practise Monday because of the sore back, but will travel and probably play through pain.

Starting point guard Jose Calderon is questionable – not because of the sore left foot that has hampered him recently, but because of the right ankle sprain he sustained in a home matchup against the Celtics on Sunday night.

Beleaguered Sports Fan

Despite having a worse record than they did last year at the same point in the season, this group, this thinned out injury ravaged group, has shown way more gumption than the listless group of ‘under-achievers’ we cheered for last season.  This group we’ve been watching this year has not wilted with nearly the same frequency that Chris, Hedo and company did a year ago, even with all-world rebounder and general effort/grit guy extraordinaire Reggie Evans on the shelf for the last 5 or 6 weeks.

Now, understandably, guys are a little more motivated in the climate they find themselves in here as compared to the one that was clouded by the uncertainty of Chris Bosh’s future a year ago.  Not to mention the inevitability in 09/10 that the ball would end up in his hands no matter how hard you worked your ass off.

This Toronto Raptors season has gifted once in a lifetime opportunities to fringe NBA players, providing extended opportunities for guys like Joey Dorsey to prove they belong with the big boys.

The modest payoff for fans has been that contributions from players like Dorsey, Jerryd Bayless, and even Julian Wright have kept the Raptors close in many games where a blowout would otherwise have been assured.  And the odd time, sweet victory has been tasted against the unsuspecting elite in the league like the Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks.  These were all great wins (the Dallas game, especially), but there haven’t been enough of them, thankfully, to create the illusion of imminent contention.

Bulls By The Horns

Now, believe it or not, the Raptors have been on a roll against the Bulls in Chicago. The dinosaurs have won five of their last six games in the United Center, including the last three in a row. According to STATS LLC, Toronto has averaged 107.2 PPG while holding Chicago to 93.2 PPG during that stretch. Over the last three of those games, Derrick Rose has scored 13.7 points and shot 42.9 percent.

Of course, the Raptors haven’t played in Chicago since losing Chris Bosh. Or, for that matter, since Carlos Boozer started suiting up for the Bulls. So perhaps only recent history matters. When the Bulls played in Toronto on December 15th, Rose struggled in the scoring department (6 points on 3-for-9 shooting), but he had 11 assists as Chicago shot 53 percent as a team and won 110-93.

However, Bargnani didn’t play in that game. So there’s that.

The key to this game is that the Raptors are a terrible defensive team, one of the worst in the league. As long as they’re patient and execute their offense, the Bulls should be able to get any shot they want. Chicago’s biggest concern should be protecting the offensive glass, since Toronto is ranked fourth in Offensive Rebound Percentage. And the Bulls are ranked only 14th in Defensive Rebound Percentage (.747), making them roughly average. Particularly in Joakim Noah’s absence.


    • Jose Calderon – despite his injuries – has maintained his production and finally caught up to Reggie Evans in terms of total wins produced, with 0.9 wins over the last six games.
    • Amir Johnson has struggled recently. In eight games he’s put up -0.3 wins. Apparently he’s been a bit hurt, but since the Raptors have been low on bodies he’s had to suit up.
    • Joey Dorsey produced 0.9 wins in eight games. Even though he’s only 6’8, he’s been playing a lot of centre with Bargnani out, so he’s not as productive as he should be. That being said, his raw productivity has also declined somewhat.
    • In six injury-filled games, Jerryd Bayless produced -0.3 wins. I guess it was a bit early to proclaim him a star, but we’ll see how he performs once he returns to health.
    • Rookie Ed Davis produced 0.6 wins in eight games. Like Dorsey, Davis has been spending a lot of time out of position at centre, although Davis has actually boosted both his raw productivity and his WP48.
  • Nilanka15

    I know this topic was recently discussed on the forum, but for those who didn’t see it, apparently the Raps are interested in pursuing Johnny Flynn.

    Flynn looks like he’s lost his starting gig to Ridnour, and Rubio doesn’t look like he’ll be heading to the NBA anytime soon. Rumour has it that Minnesota is making Flynn expendable, while setting their sights on Kyrie Irving in the upcoming draft.

    This would probably mean that 1) Calderon is packaged in the same deal, or an upcoming deal, leaving Bayless and Flynn to battle it out for the starting gig. Or 2), Trade Barbosa, move Bayless to the backup SG spot, and have Flynn backup Calderon (until he’s ready to be promoted).


    • Mediumcore

      Not sure why we would want to trade for Flynn if he lost his starting role to Ridnour. He might be damaged goods, as I beleive he sustained some sort of hip injury. Might just be rumors, as I don’t have the source, but recall hearing that Rubio has given Minesota a verbal agreement that he will be playing for them next seasona and his buy out from existing team would only be about $1 Million.

      As far as Flynn goes, he didn’t have a stellar rookie season, and is another undersized guard that seems more fit to be a shooting guard than a point guard.

      I didn’t know that Minnie was also aiming their sights at Irving. I would have thought it would make more sense to trade Calderon and perhaps an expiring contract of (Evans maybe) to Minnie in exchange for their first round pick. Raptors should aim high and go for both Irving and Barnes.

      • Nilanka15

        The problem is, the Raps may not be bad enough to land a top 3 pick (in order to land Barnes or Irving).

        As for Flynn, it might be a classic case of buying low (we’ve already seen it with Bayless).

        • Mediumcore

          “The problem is, the Raps may not be bad enough to land a top 3 pick (in order to land Barnes or Irving).”

          That is why I think the Rap’s should use what assets they are willing to part with in order to acquire draft picks from other low seeded teams. Minnie has been so bad for so long that imo they would want veteran players and cap room to get stars as opposed to continually tapping the draft. At what point does their re-build end and they start making a push for a playoff spot? I hope the Raptor’s never get to the point that the Timberwolves have…perpetually at the bottom of the barrel. The Raptors should be targeting low seeded teams and going after their draft picks in exchage for our expiring contracts, players, TPE etc. that we are willing to part with.

          • Nilanka15

            If the Twolves are willing to part with their pick(s), them I’m game. But history has shown us that “rebuilding teams” typically aren’t in the market for vets, unless they have an bonafide young core to build around. I don’t know if Beasley/Love are franchise players.

            But then again, nobody knows what David Khan is thinking (including himself), so anything is possible…

            • Lucas Lopes

              A guy who´s averaging 20, 15, 2.5 at 22 years of age seems to be a franchise player, unless a terrible regression takes place. Even in a bad team, and there a few bad teams in the league, few players are putting up those numbers.

              • Nilanka15

                His stats are incredible, no doubt. But for whatever reason, I don’t see him in the same category as Derrick Rose, John Wall, Blake Griffin, etc. (legitimate franchise-changing young players). I see him more like a David Lee…he puts up great numbers, but isn’t the guy who has the potential to single handedly win you a game by himself.

                Plus his on-going feud with Rambis makes me think that Minny’s management team is employing a wait-and-see approach regarding Love.

              • Vright

                Agree, Love is for sure a stud and Beasley seems to be turning a corner over there in Minny – I am not sure how the deal would work out cap wise, but I second the motive of rolling the dice in the lottery in the hope of finding tier one talent as opposed to making moves to pick up young cast offs like Flynn.

                With the cap space the Raptors have, they certainly have options – should be an interesting trade deadline and off season, well depending upon the goings on with the new CBA that is … :-)

            • Mediumcore

              Add Rubio, and Wes Johnson to that as well and Corey Brewer too ….they’ve been at the draft pick well for a long time and they need to add veteran players at this point, not more rookies.

        • draftedraptor

          The problem is, the Raps may not be bad enough to land a top 3 pick (in order to land Barnes or Irving).

          the raps are bad enough to finish last but they are luckily in the eastern conference.

    • knickz

      i want jose as a member of this frnachise until he retires…i would not move him because he’s going to get a lot better…not a big fan o flynn

    • Alucart999

      From an “accumulating talent” perspective, of Calderon still has the value to net a prospect of Flynn’s calibre, I would think long and hard about it. I think Barbosa could get us more than Calderon could (shorter contract, younger, better defence), so if Calderon could net us Flynn, could Barbosa get us Rubio? 😛

      Having said that, from a basketball perspective, I would try to stick with Calderon until we can find his successor. Getting rid of your only competent point guard without picking up a replacement would stunt the development of the younger players. So if there are a host of question marks surrounding Flynn’s ability to become an NBA starting point guard (which I think there are), then you have to be careful about getting rid of your starting PG to do it.

      Now, if trading Barbosa could get us Flynn, I would probably be more excited about it, since that would open up Barbosa’s bench role (scorer off the bench) for Bayless to have a go at it. Something I think Bayless is better suited for anyways.

      • sleepz

        I actually think Barbosa has been the Raps most consistent player this year and although there is a rebuild going on here, this is one vet I would seriously consider keeping.

        He’s shown toughness and willing to play through injury since the start of the year, he’s a pro’s pro, and although he might take some questionable shots at times, he is always coming off the bench to attack and giving up his body. The rumors about his defence being weak were grossly overstated as he has been a pest in the backcourt this year.

        I would never trade Barbosa for Flynn and I don’t think Bayless is as effective a scorer off the bench as Leandro.

  • Bo4

    If I’m BC, I …

    1) Release Ron Dupree. Trade the TPE for Gerald Wallace (to occupy the empty roster spot).

    2) Draft Kyrie Irving. Sign him (after Reggie Evans is allowed to walk as a free agent).

    3) Sign Marc Gasol as a RFA (after Peja Stojakovic is allowed to walk as a free agent).

    Amir Johnson, Ed Davis,
    Leandro Barbosa, DeMar DeRozan,
    José Calderon & Jerryd Bayless.

    4) Bargnani for a starting swing in ’11-’12 (seriously!).

    5) Linas Kleiza &/or Sonny Weems plus our ’12 1st-round draft pick for an upgraded ’12 draft pick (to be used to get a bench swing with the potential to have a more complete NBA game someday).

    Peak in 3 or 4 years (’13-’14).

    • Nilanka15

      Two big “ifs” in your game plan:

      1. If Charlotte makes Wallace expendable.
      2. If Memphis doesn’t match any offer for Gasol.

  • Nilanka15

    On a slightly related topic, apparently the Twolves are pursuing OJ Mayo. I’ve said it many times before, but I would love to see Mayo in a Raps uniform…perhaps allowing DeRozan to move to SF (and letting go of Weems).

  • Bo4

    Nilanka, I’ve had second-thoughts about what to trade Bargnani for eventually. In all honesty, I don’t see Dorsey as an NBA rotation player on a competitive team, and Alabi is light-years away. Maybe we’d be better off getting a bench C/PF, instead. That would give us:

    Gasol, Johnson, Wallace, DeRozan & Calderon
    Davis, Barbosa & Bayless
    ____?, ____? & Irving

    The idea is that the three guys at the bottom are actually talented enough to start someday.

    • Nilanka15

      I agree on Dorsey and Alabi (although I expected a steeper learning curve from Alabi).

      Irving represents a bit of a question mark. There’s a chance he may not declare himself eligible this summer (even if a lookout is avoided). As some have pointed out in the past, Coach K is known for persuading his players to stick around.

    • cesco

      Trading Andrea for an interrogation mark who may be a starter some day . Are you living in a lunatic home by any chance ? .

      • Nilanka15

        I’m sure we can find a way to keep Bargnani…

        …perhaps as a ball boy, or one of those floor mopper girls 😛

      • Bo4

        cesco, please feel free to come up with a better plan whenever you want! All I see is

      • sleepz

        I certainly wouldn’t trade Bargnani for a question mark but if you can get back a scorer who plays some defence (this player can play any position as far as I’m concerned) how can you not look at your options going forward?

        I want to win consistently and I want them to be a defensive minded squad, which they are clearly not at this time.

        This team has a few pieces but when I watch them play they are clearly missing their “best player” and thats even with Andrea on the court. Our talent level is not where it should be for a team on the rise. Raps have decent role players but they are missing an elite talent and might not obtain that for another few years, but based on the vigor they defend with when they don’t have to account for a large defensive liability (Andrea), to me they are just missing a real scorer who does not hurt you on that end.

        I don’t think the Raps are better without Andrea right now, however they defend better in my opinion, rotations are in order and shots are getting contested and blocked at the rim with regularity. This is a good sign and something that most real Raps fans have been longing to see for some time now.

        If Andrea could defend or show a willingness to committ to that end of the floor, he could possibly be ‘the guy’, but no amount of ‘potential development’ will convince me of that. I’ve watched him play all 5 years here very closely and the only thing that has gotten better has been his comfort level offensively. His defence is terrible and he doesn’t show any inclination in improving in this area imo.