The Raptors have lost Andrea Bargnani for an undetermined number of weeks after the rookie forward underwent surgery to remove his appendix early yesterday morning.
The injury may also cost the native of Italy a chance for the NBA rookie-of-the-year award, although nobody with the Raptors is worried about that at this point.
"You do have to worry about basketball, but some things are more important, and his health comes first," Bargnani's teammate Chris Bosh said yesterday. "It's a tough loss for us, but I'm just happy he's doing okay and he's well."
The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2006 draft will remain in Mt. Sinai Hospital for the next few days. Recovery times for an appendectomy vary and the team said there is no timetable for his release or return to the lineup, although two to four weeks seems to be the best guess.
Bargnani seemed fine Tuesday after practice, but a bout of non-perforated acute appendicitis struck him and surgery was needed before the appendix ruptured.
The loss of Bargnani is a blow to the Raptors as the 21-year-old has played well this season, averaging 11.5 points and 3.9 rebounds off the bench. He won Eastern Conference rookie-of-the-month honours for February, when he averaged 13.5 points, shooting 50%. He also won the award for January. Bargnani has helped the Raptors surge to the top of the Atlantic Division.
Mitchell is confident the Raptors, who lead the New Jersey Nets by 51/2 games, will rise to occasion without Bargnani as they did in December when Bosh went down with a left knee bruise.
"All teams go through injuries and illnesses, so there's no point worrying about it, or trying to figure out who's going to do what Andrea does," Mitchell said. "They need to do what they do the best and like they've done all year -- just do their job and play within themselves."
Bargnani gives the Raptors a deadly outside shooting presence and instant offence off the bench, something no one else on the bench can bring, nor is Mitchell expecting that.
"I hope Rasho (Nesterovic) doesn't step up there and start shooting from where Andrea shoots from, trying to replace Andrea," Mitchell said.
When asked what he would do if another big bench replacement, Kris Humphries, attempted to fill in for Bargnani by launching threes, Mitchell replied: "If Hump does that, he'll be over here holding the microphone with you. I can promise you that much."
The Raptors went 6-6 with Bosh out and the big forward believes his team will do the same without Bargnani.
"Guys are going to have to step up, but that's all part of basketball," Bosh said.
"That's why guys train as hard as they do, so they're ready for instances such as this.
"I think it's good for us though. It kind of makes us have to learn to do certain things at certain times. With guys out, guys have to step up and be ready," he added.
Bargnani and Brandon Roy of the Portland Trail Blazers are the favourites for rookie-of-the-year honours.