Basketball

Andrea Bargnani ready to return for Raptors

Toronto Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani is practising again, and is expected to return to the lineup Tuesday in Atlanta.

Toronto Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani is practising again, and is expected to return to the lineup Tuesday night versus the Atlanta Hawks (7 p.m. ET).

Bargnani, 22, missed four games with a hyperextended knee suffered in a 103-91 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 28.

The sophomore pro knocked knees with Grizzlies forward Stromile Swift as he drove to the basket in the fourth quarter.

"The knee is getting better every day," Bargnani told reporters following Monday's workout.

"Today, I practised normally and it was feeling good. I can try to play, we'll see [Tuesday]."

Bargnani, drafted first overall in 2006, has been a solid contributor for the Raptors this season, averaging 11.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 25.2 minutes in 17 games, including 11 starts.

He is shooting a lofty 45.2 per cent from three-point range (28-62).

Having Bargnani back signals a return to full health for the Raptors, with Chris Bosh now recovered from a strained groin and guard T.J. Ford from an arm stinger.

Bosh, sidelined for five games, returned with a vengeance as he poured in 21 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and blocked four shots in this past Sunday's 93-80 romp over the Houston Rockets.

"The groin, surprisingly, didn't give me any trouble this morning," he said. "We came out and had a good practice.

"I was able to go 100 per cent. It is just overall game soreness … but I feel really good."

Injuries to Bosh, Bargnani, Ford and Rasho Nesterovic, shelved six games with an ankle injury, have forced Raptors head coach

Sam Mitchell to use 10 different starting lineups through 21 games this season.

"He is a multi-talented guy," Bosh quipped.

The timing of the starting lineup's collective return couldn't be better because Toronto is entering a challenging stretch in the schedule, visiting Atlanta on Tuesday, hosting Dallas on Wednesday, visiting Indianapolis on Friday and returning home to

host Boston on Sunday before embarking on a seven-game road trip that includes four games in five nights.

"This month is tough," Raptors guard Jose Calderon said. "We have to try to win games because we're going to play against really good teams when we go to the West Coast.

"It is time to start winning, maybe even three in a row, because it's, like, we win one [and] look like we're going in a good way and then we take a step back."

"This month will definitely show what kind of team we are because of the schedule," Ford said. "We just have to do a good job of coming out and playing hard and trying to get these wins because it's not going to be easy."

With files from the Canadian Press

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