Wednesday night however, Casey had a different bone to pick. Andrea Bargnani returned to the lineup for what turned out to be a disappointing 99-95 loss at home to the Boston Celtics, and while the seven-foot Italian performed relatively well in just under 24 minutes on the floor – scoring 13 points and providing about the only spark for the Raptors off the bench – some fans weren’t exactly excited to see him back on the floor.
When he checked into the game for the first time midway through the first quarter it was to a mixed reception of cheers and boos. So after taking questions regarding his team’s performance against the Celtics, which included blowing a 10-point fourth quarter lead, Casey addressed the fans who chose to boo a player that was taking the floor for the first time in 26 games.
“I’m disappointed because this young man has done nothing to deserve that,” Casey said in his post-game press conference. “He’s been hurt. Fans have a right to boo, cheer, boo me, whomever they want to boo. I don’t think Andrea deserved that. The young man has come back from a serious injury, but again I thought he was a pro about it, he came in and played and gave us everything we needed.”
There’s no doubt the next few weeks prior to the February 21st trade deadline will serve as another opportunity for fans, the media, and general manager Bryan Colangelo to debate and determine whether it’s worth moving Bargnani in a trade or hanging onto him and seeing whether he can adapt to the new-look lineup.
But the organization has more to worry about than whether they should keep or move Il Mago. Wednesday was another rough night for the Raptors bench. Alan Anderson once again couldn’t find his groove on offense shooting 2-for-7 from the field for just five points in nearly 28 minutes. He and John Lucas were a combined minus-22 and they were both on the floor as the Celtics chipped away and overcame and 10-point deficit in just over three minutes in the fourth quarter. Holding a lead has not been one of the Raptors strong points either as in 12 of the team’s 32 losses this season they’ve been on top heading into the fourth quarter.
“Our bench has got to step up,” Casey said. “Our guys can’t play those type of minutes in that type of game and we can’t come in and give up a lead which the starting unit has gained.”
It’s unfair to call out the entire Raptors bench as Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas received minimal time on the floor and that will be something Casey will have to focus in on as the season goes forward.
Unless something drastic changes in the very near future the playoffs are nothing more than a pipe dream for the Raptors so maybe rather than focusing on the present, and giving heavy minutes to players like Alan Anderson and Aaron Gray this team is better suited spreading the minutes around and not worrying so much about wins and losses.
Maybe the rest of this season should be focused on integrating and developing players like Ross and Valanciunas who are going to be key pieces for this franchise in the years to come.
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- Dwane Casey
- Toronto Raptors
- Andrea Bargnani