Bargnani's got back woes

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

Rookie Andrea Bargnani was the only Raptor who did not take part in a full practice yesterday at the Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago because of a sore back. Bargnani, who played 29 minutes on Wednesday night in Cleveland, instead did a series of stretches off to the side of the gym.

His status for tonight's game is uncertain.

The 21-year-old has improved his average in all three shooting categories over the past five games, including going 10-for-10 from the free throw line. In games from Nov.28-Dec.6, Bargnani is shooting 48% from the floor (his season average is 43%), 35% from three-point range (33% season average) and has averaged 12.8 points (8.2).

Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo believes that Bargnani is starting to find his comfort zone both with the Raptors and in the NBA. European rookies tend to go through a longer acclimation period than rookies who come out of the U.S. college system.

"Frequency of games is the most stunning difference," Colangelo said. "They're used to a two-game away schedule. You can plan on those games, coming twice a week.

"Here, the frequency of games sometimes is four games in six nights, with travel to and from cities, late-night travel, leaving places and arriving in the middle of the night. It's different, it's a completely different schedule."

Meanwhile, teammate Jorge Garbajosa, at 28, the oldest rookie in the NBA, ranks in the top four in five rookie categories, including points per game (8.2 T-4th), rebounds (5.1 T-3rd), steals (1.1 2nd), minutes (26.7 2nd) and double-doubles (2 T1st).

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

The Raptors are 5-2 at the Air Canada Centre and 2-9 on the road. Here is the alarming lowdown:

At home, the Raps are averaging 100.0 points, on the road 97.2. The bench is averaging 36.4 points at home and 27.6 away. Toronto is shooting 48% from field goal range at the ACC and 43% on the road.

They are also shooting 31% from three-point range at home and 26% on the road. The only major offensive category where the Raptors aren't struggling much more on the road is rebounds. At home, they're pulling in 40.7 per game and 39.6 away from the ACC. The Raptors will be looking to snap a seven-game winless streak at the United Centre tonight.


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