With the New York Knicks in town, it's inevitable there will be some talk regarding Chris Bosh's future.
The Toronto Raptors' franchise player will be a free agent this summer, and the Knicks (21-39) have moved heaven, Earth and a lot of bad contracts to be in position to compete for his services.
A glimpse of what the Raptors (31-28) might look like without him: Bosh missed the past six games with an ankle injury - though he's expected to play tonight, along with Hedo Turkoglu (ankle) and Jose Calderon (elbow) - and the NBA team went 2-4.
Should Bosh leave - and there's been no indication either way - it's possible Andrea Bargnani would become the team's primary scorer, though with a significant caveat: Even he recognizes he may not be up to the job just yet.
With defences keying on him, and Bosh not there to command double-teams and open up the floor, Bargnani has struggled to raise his game above his usual numbers. In the last five games without Bosh in the lineup, Bargnani averaged 17 points, 4.8 rebounds and shot 46 per cent, while his season totals are 17.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 47.3 per cent.
But the idea Bargnani has a lot more to bring to the table offensively or is somehow stifled playing second banana to Bosh didn't gain any momentum with Bosh hurt - which is perhaps why Bargnani is as happy to see him return as anyone.
"When Chris plays, it's more easy," Bargnani said yesterday. "They guard me with more attention. It's tougher, the other team prepares the [game plan]more."
But the recent experience might help Bargnani long-term.
"I think it' s going to help him down the road because it's new," Raptors head coach Jay Triano said. "It's something he'll have to adapt to if he's ever going to become the focal point of the offence on certain plays."
If he can develop his game to the point he requires a double-team, it would take a load off Bosh. If Bosh leaves, Bargnani might have to deal with more attention than he would like.
"I'm sure it's a little different for him," Bosh said. "It takes time. It takes time to get used to things like that. It took me about two years."
How Bargnani managed without him was something Bosh watched while recovering from his ankle sprain.
"I was watching to see how he was going to do and, sometimes, when a certain player's out, your role changes and he was probably one of the primary scorers - he already is - but he moves up a little bit and it's tough sometimes. But we don't have to worry about that any more."
Bosh said he's eager, rested and ready to resuming his role as the linchpin of the team, offensively and defensively.
"That's my job. When I signed up for this, that was under my description: Make it easier for everyone. Make everybody better. That's my job and I'm used to it now, so I will continue to do it."
Bargnani's brief cameo as the team's go-to scorer will be shelved for now. Similarly, guard Jarrett Jack expects to curb his instinct to carry the offence early on, as Bosh presents a better option.
"I think we all know how necessary it is to make sure he's involved in the game early. It establishes a post presence and it doesn't force us to be perimeter-oriented, which we may have when he was gone," Jack said.
"It opens up the floor for us. No team can guard him 1-on-1, I think."
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