|Andrea Bargnani passes the ball during Raptors practice at the Air Canada Centre. (Dave Abel/QMI Agency)
The Raptors took the first step towards a return to normalcy on Monday.
Andrea Bargnani and his strained left calf were back on the practice court and participating in the first workout since a Dec. 22 loss to Detroit when the injury occurred.
Bargnani has missed four games, all of them losses with the exception of a stunning upset of the Mavericks in Dallas.
In those four games, the Raptors averaged 88.3 points a game, which is just over 12 points less than the season average.
DeMar DeRozan has stepped up his offensive production nicely in Bargnani’s absence, but in a game like Sunday’s loss to Boston, when DeRozan was the only Raptor who seemed capable of hurting the Celtics, Bargnani’s absence is magnified.
Bargnani watched the three road games on television. He was on the bench in street clothes for the fourth Sunday in that loss to Boston.
While the Raptors have limped along during his absence, an absence that coincided with a handful of other injuries to key Raptors, his expected return for Tuesday’s game in Chicago at least gives the Raptors a chance to outscore their opponents.
The four games without him have created opportunities for the likes of DeRozan and Linas Kleiza to become focal members of a team’s offence, but without Bargnani, the Raps had to play and almost perfect defensive game to even have a chance.
As much as his 21 points per game were missed, Bargnani missed being on the court.
Asked to describe what it was like watching his teammates on television rather than playing, Bargnani skipped right past words like “difficult” or “frustrating’”and went right to “boring.”
“It’s boring, very boring,” Bargnani said.
His five days while the Raps were in Memphis, Dallas and Houston consisted of a three-hour therapy session each morning following by another three-hour therapy session each afternoon.
“Basically it was all day,” he said. “It was not fun.”
The hope now from Bargnani and all the Raptors is two-fold.
First, that he wakes up this morning and shows no ill effects of his first full workout in a week and a half. Second, that he re-locates the shooting rhythm that makes him a threat from just about anywhere on the court.
Bargnani believes there will be a little adjustment period, but nothing drastic.
The concern, if there is any such thing when the leading scorer returns to the fold, is that Bargnani’s return will result in DeRozan losing some of that aggression that made him so successful the past four games.
In the four games while Bargnani was layed up, DeRozan averaged 24.5 points a night. Prior to that he was averaging 12.7.
There’s no question Bargnani will re-assume top dog status in terms of offensive touches, but DeRozan isn’t about to alter the aggressive style he has shown of late.
“I’m going to still be aggressive and try and get to the free throw line,” DeRozan said. “It’s going to be more things the opponent has to worry about now with (Bargnani) back and it may free up more space for me.”
Figuring out how that will all play out is a much smaller problem than not having enough scoring on the floor.