16 games are all that remain, and the Raptors find themselves hosting one of the most balanced and interesting teams in the West... One which is still try to adjust to life after trading away their big man.
If you weren't for tanking before, Jerryd Bayless out for the rest of the season may have been enough to push you over the edge.
But as we wind down towards the end of the season, into the final sweet 16 games, I still don't know what to do with the Raptors' enigma player:
He's quickly becoming a bigger topic of discussion with the fans and websites out there as his regression into his former form has scared away a lot of the optimists out there. When Andrea was playing his best basketball many months ago, he was doing so on a fairly consistent basis when there was still hope that the Raptors could achieve something and surprise people.
He was doing his best help defense in years, showing on plays, making life extremely difficult on opposing point guards.
Now, all of that's gone and he seems to be going through the motions.
Where you sit on the matter really depends on your optics on the situation. If you feel that Bargnani is merely going through the motions since the Raptors are essentially trying to get ping pong balls and the Bargnani you saw earlier in the year was the one we will see if the Raptors are competitive, then you're probably happy with Bryan Colangelo's decision to sit on Bargnani. If you believe that Bargnani's recent play is indicative of regression and that this is simply Andrea returning back to reality, then you're probably also calling for Colangelo's head since this is another tradeable asset that he's seemingly held past its highest value.
However, I'd like to put forth another question.
I'd like to know what Dwane Casey is doing about all this.
For a man who was credited for motivating Bargnani earlier this year, I wonder what's going on in his mind with regards to Bargnani and his recent play. It was Casey that was largely credited with getting Bargnani to play towards simple goals and giving his all on every play. It was also Casey who arguably ran Bargnani into the ground by playing him more minutes than any other time in his career.
Can Casey get Bargnani to continue to buy into things and motivate him when the Raptors will need him next year?
Or does there come a time when you cut your loses on a player and part ways like Denver did with Nene?
As the Nuggets roll into town, I look at their team and think about just how surprising the Nuggets have been. Without a "superstar" player, the Denver Nuggets have still managed to carve out a place for themselves in the Western Conference standings. Since trading away Nene, the Nuggets haven't been exactly on fire, but the trade was done with an eye towards the future and freeing up salary... You know, salary that could be used on players such as the-almost-Raptor Wilson Chandler.
Let's also not forget that Masai Ujiri left the Raptors to run the Nuggets and chose to move their own semi-star player after just signing him to a massive contract in the off season. Fear of change is something that Masai definitely didn't inherit from Bryan Colangelo.
However, if the Raptors hope to beat the Nuggets, it's going to have to come from a balanced effort. The Nuggets have managed to maintain an above .500 record thanks to their speed and their balanced scoring.
1) The Forbes Factor - With Jerryd Bayless out and Jose Calderon not quite being 100%, I'm looking towards Gary Forbes needing a larger game than usual in order. He is playing against his old team and the Raptors will need his toughness against Ty Lawson and Andre Miller.
2) More Killer than Filler - Yes, the Raptors signed Alan Anderson and Ben Uzoh to 10-day contracts to fill out their roster as the injury bug has put several players on the mend or completely out of the season. We'll need something more from these players if the Raptors hope to beat the relatively healthy Nuggets. The Nuggets have the benefit of both even scoring and depth with Andre Miller, Corey Brewer, Al Harrington and JaVale McGee all coming off the bench.
3) Aggressive Bargs - I'd love Bargnani to at least turn it completely on for a game again before the end of the season. It'll do a lot to keep my mind at ease. The Nuggets have a lot of athletic "bigs' on their roster, so Bargnani is going to have to play it smart and get involved if the Raptors hope to win. Without Nene in the paint, Bargnani should have a lot more freedom to operate