Andrea Bargnani back Wednesday… just in time to shop him

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Time to celebrate Toronto, Andrea Bargnani is back.

Okay, maybe not celebrate. But if the Raptors have any chance of trading him at the deadline — and there isn’t that much of a chance, people have seen him play — they need to get him on the court and remind teams of what Bargnani can do.

So it’s good news that Bargnani will be back Wednesday night for the Raptors as they take on the Celtics, the return confirmed in a tweet by Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun.

Bargnani went down Dec. 10 with a torn ligament in his right elbow. The Raptors were 4-18 when he got injured and have gone 13-13 in his absence. Draw your own conclusions, although they are pretty obvious. While there were scheduling and other factors in there, the fact is Bargnani was scoring 16 points a night but needing 15.2 shots a game to get there — 39.8% percent shooting overall and 31.9% from three. His PER this season is 12.4. He was not good.

Casey is selling that Bargnani will space the floor creating slashing lanes for Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan. Sure it will.

The Raptors would love to move him at the trade deadline and are willing to take a rack of shootaround basketballs, some ankle tape and whatever else you have for him. But to move him they are going to have to play him.

If Bargnani is not moved by the deadline it will be interesting to see what coach Dwane Casey does with him. But we are not there.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.