TORONTO - Despite the best attempts of Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, Andrea Bargnani was not named to his first all-star game on Thursday evening.
Bargnani has only played in 13 games this season, missing 14 and Casey is convinced that is all that prevented Bargnani from making it as a reserve.
“I would bet my house he would have made it if he’d stayed healthy,” Casey said after Thursday’s practice.
“He had the numbers offensively, he was doing the things defensively. If you notice everybody talks about how we’ve dropped defensively in the standings (of late), a lot of that correlates (with Bargnani being out). We’ve dropped without him in there and a lot of the coaches noticed that as much as his offence, how much he’s improved defensively.”
Veteran Raptors centre Jamaal Magloire agreed.
“I’ve played against him many years, but seeing the impact he has when he’s out there versus when he’s not is tremendous,” Magloire said.
“He has given an honest effort since Day One. He’s bought into coach Casey’s system. I have seen the transition with him defensively, he has gotten a lot better.”
Casey said he has been exchanging texts with fellow Eastern Conference coaches ever since Bargnani started off the season on a tear. The 7-footer is averaging career bests in points (23.5), rebounds (6.4), field goal and free throw percentage (47.6% and 84.3%), assists (2.1) and minutes per game (36.0).
“I started (working the phones) a while ago,” admitted the coach.
“I wasn’t making it up, wasn’t selling wolf tickets, I wasn’t sugar-coating it, I was stating facts. True. At that time, he was playing like an all-star.”
But it is hard to convince people that an injured player is worthy of a trip to Orlando for all-star weekend, no matter how well he performed when healthy.
Bargnani likely will miss at least another week due to his strained calf, but if he returns prior to the break, he could still get in as an injury replacement if Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Roy Hibbert or LeBron James get injured.
Even if that doesn’t happen, Casey is confident it will sometime soon.
“He’s going to make it. He keeps rolling the same way he is right now he’s going to be an all-star. I’m going to work his butt off and be on him to help make him that. He’s already got the talent to do that but pushing and staying (effective) on the defensive end (will be important).”
Casey admitted that everybody knew what Bargnani could do offensively, but his turnaround elsewhere has been a shock and enhanced his case significantly.
“He’s one of our best pick and roll defenders. I don’t know if anybody even anticipated using Andrea and defensive terminology in the same sentence,” Casey said, drawing chuckles.
“He’s one of our best zone guys. We miss him a lot on the defensive end, just setting the tone.”
Despite that, Bargnani’s impact offensively is what is missed most by the reeling Raptors.
“For the most part just giving us a balance and an anchor where we don’t lose our mind on the offensive end because what we’ve done lately too, we’ve let the offensive mistakes and missed shots affect our defensive focus and sharpness.”
When you think about all of that, Bargnani as an all-star would have made a lot of sense.
THE ALL-STARS ARE ...
Besides Howard, James, Hibbert and Bosh, the East will feature Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala.
In the West, Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant will be joined by reserves Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol. Nash becomes the fourth player to make the all-star game at 38 or older.
Jerryd Bayless was held out of practice after hurting his ankle against Milwaukee on Wednesday. The team says he is a game-time decision for the Boston encounter, but given his history of ankle injuries, expect them to err on the side of caution.
With all the deadlines for contracts needing to be guaranteed having passed, teams can now sign 10-day contracts with players.
The Raptors don’t anticipate making an imminent move because all 15 players were signed to fully guaranteed deals prior to the season. That could change though if somebody needs to be waived in order to create a roster spot to facilitate a 2-for-1 or 3-for-2 trade.