|Toronto Raptors' Andrea Bargnani is congratulated by teammate Jose Calderon. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)
TORONTO - As the Raptors disperse for home or vacations, or in DeMar DeRozanís case, home and the all-star game festivities, they do so having survived a nasty run of injuries and an even nastier dive in the standings.
Clearly there is a connection between the two, but what of the strides this team has made.
Granted, they have been more baby steps than giant leaps. Six wins through the first month of November were followed by just nine more in the 21/2 months.
In no particular order the Raptors have seen the individual stocks of DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis head north.
The tougher question is, what Andrea Bargnani is trading at these days? Is he a bigger commodity than when the season began, or a devalued asset?
With Bargnani there are no easy answers.
For every 38-point gem like the one he gave the Raptors on Wednesday night, there seems to be 3-for-15 performance from the field with 12 points, like the one Bargnani gave the Raptors in a loss to Indiana at the end of January.
For the record Bargnani has led the Raptors in scoring in 29 of the 56 games this season. In fairness to Bargnani, itís actually 29 of 50 games because he sat out six due to of injury.
His 22-point, 5.5-rebound average a game is nothing to sneeze at, but more often than not the big Italian is the lightning rod for discontent on a team where discontent has been a fact of life.
Consistency just doesnít seem to be a concept Bargnani can get acquainted with.
But you go to the numbers and try to determine why he is so inconsistent and you find that heís really not that inconsistent at all.
He began the season averaging 20.7 points and 5.3 rebounds a night in November. In December the scoring went up incrementally to 21.9 and the rebounding rose to 6.5 a night. Then in January the scoring was down to 21.1 a night the rebounding back to 5.4 a night.
Whether heís playing a back-to-back, on one days rest, two or even three, heís only a basket a night better at his best, which comes on two days rest than at this worst, which is on three days rest.
The only significant difference is his scoring home and away. In 25 games at the ACC this season, Bargnani has averaged 24.5 points a night. Away from home, he averages just 19.4.
Other than that, he actually has been somewhat consistent month to month but not necessarily week to week.
His rebounding numbers have been almost flat no matter where he plays, when he plays, or on how much rest heís getting. Unfortunately, thatís not an area where the Raptors seek consistency. A seven-footer should, even with minimal effort, pull down more than the 5.5 boards he averages on a nightly basis, but Bargnani gives no indication that will ever change.
You can make the argument that he spends a lot of his time away from the basket with the Raptors on offence but defensively he spends far more time in the shadow of the basket than he does away from it.
We really donít expect Bargnani will ever be more than a mediocre rebounder based on 41/2 seasons or work. What that means is his scoring has to not just be a given night in and night out it has to be better than the 22 a night, heís averaging this season.
The good news is, Bargnani heads into the break coming off six consecutive games of exactly that level of scoring.
Take away the 12-point night he opened the month of February with against Atlanta and heís a few 10ths below a 30-point average for the month of February.
If Bargnani can keep his scoring at those levels, his average defence and sub-par rebounding are no longer the problem they once were.