Andrea Bargnani's going to miss some time. (Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports)
OK, raise your hand if you feel bad about making fun earlier:
An MRI to A.Bargnani’s l. elbow revealed a torn ligament.The injury occurred last night vs 76ers at 2:40 in 3rd qtr. He is out indefinitely.
— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) January 23, 2014
Yep, that's right — while he appeared none the worse for wear after the play and remained in Wednesday's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks forward/center Andrea Bargnani tore a ligament in his left elbow on this late third-quarter slam dunk attempt.
Bargnani remained in the game, hitting both of his free throws, finishing the third quarter and playing the first three minutes of the fourth before taking a seat for the rest of the game. He finished with 20 points, four rebounds and four blocked shots.
After two injury-plagued years north of the border, including a 2012-13 season that ended with a right elbow injury, Bargnani had actually been one of the more reliable (after a fashion) performers for head coach Mike Woodson. He had appeared in all 42 Knicks games, including 39 starts, and ranked second on the team in minutes played this season after coming to New York in an offseason trade that sent reserve forward Steve Novak, backup center Marcus Camby and little-used swingman Quentin Richardson to the Toronto Raptors, along with New York's 2016 first-round draft pick and second-round selections in 2014 and 2017.
The 28-year-old former No. 1 overall pick ranks second on the Knicks in scoring and shot-blocking, and third on the team in rebounding. His injury makes a New York team already thin up front after recent ankle injuries to reserves Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin, and Metta World Peace still working his way back from a left knee strain, look downright gaunt. And yet, at the risk of sounding crude, that might not be a bad thing for a woefully disappointing Knicks team that has lost five straight games to drop to 15-27, three games behind the Charlotte Bobcats for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
As has been detailed here and elsewhere, despite his ability to hit open pick-and-pop jumpers and put the ball on the floor against similarly lumbering defenders, Bargnani has been a net negative for the Knicks this season. New York's been outscored by more than 6.2 points per 100 possessions with Bargnani on the floor this year, a full 4.5-per-100 worse than their efficiency differential (whether you outscore the opponents or whether they outscore you, spread out of over the course of 100 possessions to adjust for the differing paces at which teams play) during his time on the bench, according to NBA.com's stat tool.
The difference is even more stark when you look at New York lineups that feature Bargnani alongside Carmelo Anthony in comparisons to ones that don't, as laid out by NBA.com's John Schuhmann:
There are multiple reasons for this — Anthony having less space to operate offensively with Bargnani not offering much help in stretching the floor (just 27.8 percent from 3-point range this year, with more than 37 percent of his shots coming from midrange), Bargnani's awful defense (both on-ball and in help situations) contributing to the defensive scrambling that continually results in wide-open looks for opposing offenses, etc. The general point, though, is that Bargnani fit poorly alongside the Knicks' best player, he fit poorly alongside their best big man, and the team played noticeably worse with him in the mix.
It's not that he's been especially horrendous or egregiously worse than his typical standard of play; it's that this, for the most part, is and has been his typical standard of play, which is why bringing him in didn't seem to make much sense for the Knicks from the start. (And the less said about the fact that the Knicks gave up three draft picks in the process, the better.)
The Knicks now have 11 healthy bodies; only three (Chandler, Jeremy Tyler and Cole Aldrich) belong to big people. One would presume that this reality would force Woodson to play more guard-heavy lineups, perhaps featuring multiple iterations of two-point-guard backcourts, alongside one big at the five and Anthony at power forward, as was the Knicks' custom during a wildly successful (especially in comparison to what we've seen this year) 2012-13 campaign.
Whether such lineups would mark a significant improvement remains to be seen — as Rotowire's Charlie Zegers notes, multiple "smalls" key to last season's high-powered offense (namely Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith, and to a lesser extent Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni) have played badly this year, too. And any Knick turnout will also require much more of Chandler, who has missed more than half this season with a fractured right fibula and an upper respiratory infection, and whose recent comments about the Knicks' strategic issues have invited closer scrutiny of his own shortcomings in impacting shots at the rim, deterring drivers to the paint and finishing on offense.
Everybody needs to be better, basically, which makes sense when you're talking about a team that's 12 games under .500 and 7-15 at home. Playing without Bargnani might well give the underperforming Knicks the opportunity to do so; if not, New York might miss having a ready scapegoat nearly as much as it misses having one more guy who can score sometimes. Here's to a speedy recovery, Andrea.
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