By Ben Golliver
The Andrea Bargnani era in Toronto has likely come to a close. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. He was officially shut down on Wednesday with an avulsion sprain of the right elbow, not related to his previous right elbow injury that cost him 26 games.
It is highly unlikely the No. 1 overall pick of 2006 ever plays for the club again. The negatives of bringing him back far outweigh the positives and, simply put, it’s long past the time for a change. A change of scenery for all involved. One that should have occurred a long time ago, specifically after his 13-game mirage. Maybe Bargnani finds away to harness his obvious talents elsewhere. But, it certainly isn’t going to happen in Toronto.
While Bargnani’s teammates nobly never turned on him, the fans have and bringing him back would bring a toxic and unnecessary vibe to a franchise that needs as many positive vibes as possible, since the playoffs haven’t been sniffed in years.
Instead, the source said, the Knicks would be interested in a younger, but experienced, backup point guard to build on Raymond Felton's aggressive play in transition and half-court sets to start games. While Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni are wise floor generals, they simply don't have the consistent speed and quickness to get into the paint and make plays.
The Knicks sometimes lack offensive balance from their first to second unit, and without Stoudemire for the long haul, they're going to need more perimeter penetration to create more shot opportunities. Not to mention, Carmelo Anthony's right knee is still bothering him, so his teammates need to make things easier on the Knicks' star. The number of his routine isolation grind-outs must diminish.
The source said that point guard Delonte West makes the most sense for the Knicks.
• Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee has Cousins' strange explanation of his flagrant foul, which included a claim that it wasn't intentional, prompting Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie to wonder why Cousins didn't accept more responsibility (again).
DeMarcus Cousins got angry at a borderline-dirty (if technically NBA-legal move) by Mike Dunleavy Jr. and then nailed him in the back of the head with an elbow a few plays later. It was an intentional ploy that could have done some real damage, and considering Cousins’ reputation as a guy that doesn’t seem to care for NBA decorum, he should be punished accordingly. You can’t react to a basketball move, however dodgy, with a non-basketball move. And DeMarcus Cousins shouldn’t be believed when he tries to pass his move off as a basketball move. If another player with a spotless history on a 65-win team pulled the same move, we’d be surprised for a second before expecting the suspension to come down. Which makes the NBA’s non-suspension of Serge Ibaka all the more damning of the NBA’s decision-making policy. The league office’s foibles are not DeMarcus’ problem. His problem is his attitude, which is a bad fit for a failed franchise.
• Jason Quick of The Oregonian sets the scene for Knicks guard Raymond Felton's return to Portland, where he endured a tough 2011-12 season for the Blazers.
He came in fat and said he wasn't. He played horribly and blamed it on the coach. He bristled and brooded when some dared to question his play, then turned his nose up to a fan base that grew tired of both his bricks and his brooding. Most will remember him as being overweight, and some will remember his hideous turnovers, but I will always remember that to Raymond Felton, nothing was ever his fault.
Kevin Love did not get clearance for contact play during a visit to his New York City surgeon and will be re-evaluated in another two to three weeks. His visit with Dr. Michelle Carlson of the Hospital of Special Surgery determined his right shooting hand is "healing properly," according to a team release, and he will continue to increase his conditioning program while he waits to be evaluated again. Two weeks would leave about three weeks left in the season -- or about 12 games -- although he likely would need some practice time and wouldn't go directly into playing games.
Durant’s defense has improved inordinately. That’s not so much the result of better fundamentals as a heightened awareness of what’s materializing behind him. He now understands how to turn a contest of strength (where he might have a disadvantage) into a battle for space. He’s hyperaware of where Ibaka is lurking, looking for any excuse to challenge a shot. Off the ball, Durant has been more eager to crash the paint and has become an expert straddler, maintaining a healthy balance between his wing assignment and the paint, where he might be called upon to collapse on a drive, or pick up a roller.
Ibaka has expanded his defensive game and has become a better decision-maker with regard to space, rotations, when to load up, when to contest and when to resist the urge. That last item is still the most difficult for Ibaka. When you think about the best lanky defensive big men in the league (e.g., Kevin Garnett or Joakim Noah), they’ve historically been more concerned about holding down the fort on the weakside rather than swatting shots. With his size and wingspan, Ibaka gives his teammates a lot of leeway as defenders, but only if he times his movements and chooses his spots. So far this season, there’s been an appreciable gain. Now imagine what the Thunder could do defensively if Ibaka gets all the way there.
• Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News reports that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has high praise for DeJuan Blair, who hasn't played much in his contract year and wasn't moved at the trade deadline.
“He’s lost all the weight he’s carried in the past,” Popovich said. “He’s been upbeat, been a good teammate with everybody whether he plays or sits. He’s practiced hard, been ready when he’s come in the game, just like a Steve Kerr, always ready when you called on him.• Enes Kanter, fashion maven.
“I think as a young kid, he deserves a lot of credit for that. He’s stayed on high ground and been a real pro. I couldn’t be more proud of him. He’s really matured.”