Andrea Bargnani returns with big game
A strained calf kept Andrea Bargnani sidelined for six games, and the extended rest appears to have paid off. He returned to the hardwood against the Phoenix Suns Tuesday evening and cranked out a season-high 36 points. He was 10-for-21 from the field, hit all 12 of his free throw attempts and tacked on 4 3s, six boards, two steals and a block. The Raptors held him out for the better part of two weeks to be sure he was fully recovered. The fact that they felt he could play 42 minutes is a good sign that he truly is 100 percent, though we'll have to wait to see how his calf responds to Tuesday night's run.
Meanwhile, in other Raptors news, James Johnson continued his hot play Tuesday. He hit seven of his dozen field goal tries and all four of his free throw attempts to finish with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He appears to be locked into the starting lineup at small forward right now, but he'll have to find the consistency he has lacked as a pro if he wants to keep it long term. We've seen brief stretches like this before during his first two seasons, but he's never maintained the pace. Still, a small forward who can score a bit, hit the glass and block some shots is worth keeping an eye on in deeper leagues.
• Luckily for Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks crushed the Charlotte Bobcats, 111-78, Tuesday night. Why was he lucky? Because he missed all seven of his shots and his lone made free throw left him with a career-low one point scored, but the Knicks were still able to snap their six-game losing streak. He still managed to pull down 11 boards and dish out four dimes, but his owners should be somewhat concerned about the state of his injured wrist and ankle. He has hit just 33.3 percent of his shots in the five games since he last rested the maladies.
• It was revealed Tuesday that D.J. Augustin will miss at least the next four games due to his toe injury. That means rookie Kemba Walker will man the point, Gerald Henderson the 2 and Derrick Brown will join the Charlotte Bobcats' starting lineup at small forward. Tuesday night, Walker (35 minutes) and Brown (33 minutes) led the Bobs in court time in their loss to the Knicks. Walker finished with 22 points (7-of-17 FG), 2 3s, 2 assists and 4 turnovers, while Brown finished with 15 points (6-of-13 FG), 4 boards and 2 steals. This could be Walker's chance to claim more time at the point, but Brown likely will help teams only in deep leagues.
• On Tuesday, Marcus Camby did what he's done best throughout his lengthy career: hit the glass (22 bounds), swat shots (5 blocks) and fail to put the ball through the hoop (3 points). Despite pushing 38, the big man can still get it done, so don't hesitate to use him if you need boards or blocks. Just remember the other thing he's done throughout his career: get hurt.
• It sounds like Baron Davis could make his debut with the New York Knicks on Wednesday evening. He's been out all season while recovering from back surgery. He may have a little extra motivation to get back on the hardwood this particular evening, because the Knicks hit the road to face the Cleveland Cavaliers, for whom he played 15 games last season. If he does play, it likely will just be a cameo appearance. The Knicks should ease him in slowly off the bench, because he's not in game shape. If Davis can stay healthy and perform well, he should limit the production of guards Iman Shumpert and Landry Fields. My guess is that right about the time Davis pushes point guard Shumpert to the bench, he will get hurt again.
• An MRI revealed no significant damage to MarShon Brooks' sore Achilles tendon, and he will be a game-time call for Wednesday's tilt between the New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. Brooks downplayed the ailment, but since we're talking about a talented rookie playing in a condensed NBA schedule, the Nets may choose to play it safely with Brooks and rest him. However, their upcoming schedule is somewhat forgiving -- no back-to-back games until Feb. 3-4 -- so he may be able to work through it.