Don’t tell anyone, but Andrea Bargnani is playing well

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It’s seems weird to write this but…

Andrea Bargnani is playing really well this year. Raptors blogs are noticing. Everyone watching them is noticing.

He’s shooting better (52.7 percent overall and 37 percent from three), scoring more (22.8 per game) while taking fewer shots, rebounding more, turning the ball over less and has an All-Star level PER of 23.5. Monday night he dropped 31 on the Timberwolves Monday and seemed to do well against every defender Rick Adelman threw at him.

It doesn’t make up for the last five years and it’s a small sample size, but maybe coach Dwane Casey can work miracles. Maybe, just maybe, he has figured it all out.

What seems different is his shots seem less contested — watching a number of his attempts from last season and this (thank you Synergy) he is getting cleaner looks. If that means putting the ball on the floor and turning a three into an 18 footer without a hand in his face, he’s doing it. If he can get all the way to the rim he is, something he did not do in previous years.

Still, it’s not a matter of where the looks are coming from as much as he is hitting a higher percentage of shots. This season Bargnani is getting 22 percent of his shot attempts on spot up and he’s hitting 56.1 percent of those shots. Last season he got about the same percentage of his offense on those looks but shot just 39.2 percent. This season he is getting some in looks in isolation (18.5 percent of his shots, shooting 43 percent on them) and is doing well setting the pick then popping (shooting 47.8 percent on those).

The one difference from last year is Casey hasn’t sent him to the post as often, even although Bargnani was fairly effective there. He shoots more on the perimeter, but he is getting inside to rebound better than he ever has.

The bottom line is he’s getting cleaner looks and making more shots. Small sample size warning, we’re not going to say he has figured it all out yet. Will his focus and effort drift over the course of the season as it has in years past? The book is still out on that one.

But early on, we seem to have the Andrea Bargnani the Raptors have patiently (or not so patiently) waited for.

Physical therapist: LeBron James should have missed six months

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The Lakers initially called LeBron James day-to-day with the groin injury he suffered on Christmas.

He missed more than five weeks.

Maybe he should have sat even longer.

Karen Joubert, via Complex Sports:

Maybe LeBron returned too soon. This injury allowed that, even if it put him at risk of reaggravation if not fully recovered.

Maybe LeBron just healed especially quickly. Even among world-class athletes, he is an elite athlete.

Maybe Joubert is exaggerating. People tend to do that with LeBron’s body.

There’s plenty of room for interpretation, but it sure looked like LeBron was still hobbled.

What does this mean for LeBron and the Lakers going forward?

The pessimistic spin: LeBron did lasting damage to his body by returning so soon. This (failed) attempt to get the Lakers into the playoffs this season will undermine him in the future.

The optimistic spin: LeBron has still been excellent these last few weeks. If he gets fully healthy during his longest offseason in 14 years, he should be even better next season.

Kyrie Irving on whether returning to Cleveland means something to him: ‘Not at all’

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Kyrie Irving spent his first six seasons with the Cavaliers. He developed into a star with them. He won a title with them, even hitting the championship-winning shot.

With Irving’s Celtics playing in Cleveland tomorrow, Irving reflected on his time there.

Jared Weiss of The Athletic:

Irving is so clearly over the Cavs.

He was probably over the Cavs even while playing for them.

Lakers fan barely moves net while making halfcourt shot (video)

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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The Lakers have had a rough season.

Last night went pretty well, though – especially for one fan.

The Lakers beat the Kings, and this fan swished a halfcourt shot to win $45,000.

CJ Fogler:

The Lakers need more outside shooting. Maybe they could turn to some of their fans.

Giannis Antetokounmpo drives past/through all the Cavaliers for dunk (video)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is undeniable.

Watch this video. He’s the only Bucks player in sight on the court. All five Cavaliers appear. Antetokounmpo dunks anyway.

He dribbles past Jordan Clarkson then through David Nwaba and Tristan Thompson. Nik Stauskas and Brandon Knight are shading close enough to narrow his potential path. None of it matters.

Antetokounmpo scores inside unlike anyone anyone we’ve ever seen.