Raps shuffle Bargnani

Raptors' Andrea Bargnani will be coming off the bench for tonight's game against the 76ers. (SUN...

Raptors' Andrea Bargnani will be coming off the bench for tonight's game against the 76ers. (SUN MEDIA/Greg Henkenhaf)

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell does not plan to take his team's three-game losing streak sitting down.

He intends to stand up a lot tonight when the Raptors head into Philadelphia to take on the 76ers.

Actually, what Mitchell will do is sit second-year centre Andrea Bargnani to start tonight's game and replace him in the starting lineup with veteran Rasho Nesterovic.

"It's not a reflection on how Andrea has played," Mitchell said yesterday of the move. "I've talked to Andrea about it and he understands. It's just about trying to get the most out of our guys. It's about getting more production out of Rasho, and we think this is probably the only way we're going to do that."

DECLARATION

Mitchell made the declaration at training camp last month that the starting centre job was Bargnani's to lose. Bargnani replaced Nesterovic in the playoff series against the New Jersey Nets last season and played well, opening the door for him to start this season.

But with the Raptors having lost three in a row, and Bargnani's numbers dipping, Mitchell feels the time is right to make the change.

"Andrea is still going to get his 30-plus minutes a game," Mitchell said. "We still need him to play the way he's been playing. And he understands that.

"It may actually give Andrea more offensive touches, especially when he comes into the game for Chris (Bosh). When he and Chris are on the floor, it gets a little jumbled. It's just going to take a little time for he and Chris to figure it out when they're playing together, because eventually it's going to be Andrea and Chris, we all know that.

"Eventually, Andrea and Chris are going to be our (starting) five and four. But right now we're just trying to get back on track and get something out of Rasho. He'll give us defence and rebounding and maybe we can get something out of him early in that first and third quarter."

Mitchell said that while Nesterovic had accepted his new role as a non-starter, it has been more difficult for him to get into the flow of the game off the bench. In five games as a sub, Nesterovic, 31, has averaged seven points and 3.4 rebounds.

The Raptors have been outscored in the first quarter in the past three games by a total of 39 points. Mitchell also believes that Bargnani's move to the bench will balance the offence, giving Jason Kapono and Anthony Parker more touches early. Kapono, the NBA's top three-point shooter last season, has averaged just 5.6 shots per game, down almost three from last season.

"I'm not too worried about that," Kapono said. "Obviously, our offence isn't running as smooth, so we're not getting as many shots. But I don't think it's going to be a problem. We're only five games in and once we get into a rhythm, it will sort itself out."


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