The city of Toronto is no stranger to a good old-fashioned point guard controversy. Whether it was TJ Ford and Jose Calderon, Jose Calderon and Jarryd Bayless or the rarely talked about Vincenzo Esposito/Damon Stoudamire battle, the Raptors franchise seems to have an unhealthy attraction with turmoil at the point.
This year was supposed to be different. Bryan Colangelo and Dwane Casey did everything they could to spell it out to the fans and the players themselves in the pre-season that this was Kyle Lowry’s team and Jose Calderon would be backing him up. A slow start and injury trouble, however, changed all that.
Lowry was injured for much of the first part of the year and when he was on the court the team chemistry didn’t spell victory. He called his own number quite bit, took shots early in the clock and did not involve his teammates as much as he could have. Calderon took over after Lowry’s injury and the team has responded winning 7 of their last 8 games and looking very convincing in doing so.
Dwane Casey had to make a decision going forward with regard to the point guard position. Keep Calderon as the starter and ride this wave of strong play or put Lowry back into the spot he earned during training camp.
There are arguments to be made for both players as starters.
Calderon is a steady hand, moves the ball well, shoots a high percentage and limits turnovers. It was his addition to the starting lineup that prompted the change in fortune for the Raptors. He has inspired his teammates, playing team basketball. Since Calderon took over the Raps are communicating on the court more than they have all season and are happily sharing the ball. Most importantly they are winning games.
Lowry,on the other hand, does many things well. He drives the net and looks for contact. He is one of the few Raptors who have consistently driven the ball to the basket and drawn fouls this season. He is fast and plays strong on the defensive end, though he did not show off this skill much during the early part of the season. He’s a great rebounder for his position and does allow the Raptors the option of kick-out passes to three-point shooters.
But Lowry has also drawn the ire of his teammates. A t a team meeting earlier this season in Utah, Lowry was called out by his teammates for not moving the ball and calling his own number far too often. The Raptors recent success has come from doing the exact opposite. If Lowry can’t fit into that game plan, he can’t be the starter.
On the surface this looks like another point guard controversy in the making. Fans point to Calderon’s great play over the last month while others focus on his weak defensive play. Others want the faster, more uptempo Lowry running the show, even if he does call his number more than they would like. He’s younger and could be a big part of the teams’ future.
Fans are torn between the two.
But that doesn’t mean that Dwane Casey has to be.
In the last two games (both victories) the Raptors have used both point guards at different points in the game for long stretches. Calderon starts the team off steady and focused. He shares the ball and the other Raptors all get involved. Lowry comes in with the second unit and is allowed to call his number a bit more.
Lowry has shown, thus far, a willingness to play within the system that is working for the Raptors. Casey has Lowry buying in to what is happening on the court. As a result the ball movement has been better and Lowry has been able to play more minutes.
The breakdown of minutes played by the two has been almost dead even in wins against New Orleans and Orlando. Calderon has started the games, but Lowry has been finishing them. Both of those games also saw long stretches where both guards were on the floor.
If Casey can continue to keep the peace between the two point guards and both are willing to do whatever needs to be done for the team then I don’t see why this needs to be a controversy. Both are playing significant minutes and are being asked to play in critical fourth quarter minutes as well.
Calderon can start. He’s had great success in that role over the last 10 games and his teammates trust him in that role. Lowry can come in and change the pace when necessary and they have had success when playing together for stretches of time.
The two point guards play very different styles and by mixing and matching between the two, Casey has been forcing his opponents to make significant defensive adjustments quickly. Facing the speedy Lowry right after guarding the more methodical Calderon is like facing a Brandon Morrow fastball right after trying to make contact with an R.A. Dickey knuckleball.
This situation could work out quite well for the Raptors.
Calderon is known as a unslefish player and will likely be very willing to let Lowry take more minutes. Calderon may be the better leader for the starting unit, specifically with DeRozan and Ed Davis who he is developing a formidable chemistry with. Lowry can then play off the bench. He has been noticeably sharing the court a lot with the team oriented Alan Anderson, who can also play with the ball, thus allowing Lowry to become more of a shooter.
There is no reason why this situation can’t work.
Of course, trade rumours seem to indicate that this duo will eventually be split up, but with the chemistry working right now, there is no need to rush a move involving either guard. The Raptors can wait for the right deal, while both Lowry and Calderon continue to up their trade value.
For the first time in 4 years the Raptors may be able to avoid a controversy at the point.
The Zan Tabak Herald