At the end of the game on Monday night, former Raptor Jarrett Jack was positioned along the sideline, guarding former teammate Jose Calderon as he tried to inbound the ball. It brought to memory awkward media scrums about who should hold the starting point guard spot during Jack’s tenure as a Raptor.
Two years later, the instability surrounding a floor leader in Toronto remains.
From T.J. Ford to Jack, Jerryd Bayless and now Kyle Lowry, the flip-flopping of starting point guards has been representative of the franchise’s failed attempts to set roots and build.
While Calderon had always persevered, things are different with Lowry. When the team acquired Lowry from the Houston Rockets over the 2012 off-season in exchange for a first-round pick and reserve swingman Gary Forbes, it looked like Bryan Colangelo had done the near impossible; bringing a star player to Toronto before the slap of Steve Nash spurning the Raptors for Los Angeles had even had a chance to disappear, and saving the team from paying a 38-year-old point guard $36 million for three seasons of service.
When Lowry met the Toronto media in an introductory press conference, seated alongside Landry Fields, the team’s other big offseason acquisition, he wasn’t introduced so much as he was crowned king. Before he had even donned a Raptors uniform. Toronto president and general manager Bryan Colangelo said that the team would be “giving the keys” to Lowry. Lowry responded with, “…I think I can drive this car to (becoming) a playoff team.”
Fast forward six months. The Raptors are five and a half games out of a playoff spot in the East, having clawed their way back from a disastrous 4-19 start. It hasn’t been pretty. Lowry, after being in and out of the lineup due to various injuries, is currently the Raptors’ reserve point guard. Calderon, despite all odds stacked against him, once again remains as the starting point guard for a team that continues to try to unload his expiring contract somewhere else.
It’s a little bit of a mess.
With rumours swirling about a potential deal between the Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies for Rudy Gay — in exchange for Calderon and the rapidly improving Ed Davis — the team’s inability to see their vision through comes into play.
While it’s clear that coach Dwane Casey is more comfortable with Calderon in charge, it’s entirely understandable to see why Lowry would be leery of how the situation in Toronto has unfolded thus far. Being “given the keys” before ever suiting up for the franchise, Lowry finds himself in a situation he’s been in before; on the bench having lost his starting spot after an injury. Check out Mike Conley in Memphis and Goran Dragic in Houston. He’s already watched this movie, read the book and knows how it ends.
Calderon finds himself in familiar territory as well as he deals with his name being involved in constant trade rumours and continues to hold down the role of starting point guard for a franchise that can’t seem to stop trying to rid themselves of him.
Though it would certainly sting to lose Ed Davis, the NBA is a star-driven league. Gay would come to the Raptors to pair with Lowry, former Grizzlies teammate and one of his best friends — and immediately be one of the team’s best players. Even with his somewhat surprising regression this season, this move would bring a proven player to Toronto and it would also put the keys back into the hands of Lowry, the point guard that was supposed to be a cornerstone of this franchise for the future.
Of course, bringing Gay to the Raptors would also create a glut on the perimeter, with DeMar DeRozan and his recently inked $38-million extension, promising rookie Terrence Ross and Landry Fields. It also means tying money up into Gay while losing Davis, still on his rookie contract. Davis has blossomed into one of the most pleasant surprises in the NBA this season thanks to an increased opportunity after Andrea Bargnani went down with an elbow injury.
A move for Gay would also mean that Colangelo is getting to have his fingerprints on how this roster will look next season and beyond, despite his contract expiring at season’s end.
Regardless of Colangelo’s future with the organization, his next task this season should be getting the point guard situation in order.
For a team that continues to try to unload Calderon, it’s counterproductive to have him playing as the starter while he is here. While Lowry has had rumours of attitude problems plague him as he’s bounced from team to team, it would be hard to fault a player for being frustrated with how things have unfolded in Toronto this season. To his credit, since returning from a torn triceps, he has been a model teammate, dutifully coming off the bench and being generous in his praise and support of Calderon and the rest of his teammates.
Though Calderon and Lowry have been professional about the situation as it currently stands, the expiration date is long past due and it’s finally time to pick the point guard of the future and move forward.