Raptors hope to avoid point guard controversy
By RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency
|Raptors guard Jerryd Bayless goes to the basket against Bucks forward Keyon Dooling at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., Jan. 28, 2011. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)
TORONTO - It is early, but Dwane Casey and Jerryd Bayless want to make one thing clear.
“I don’t want a point guard controversy and there won’t be one,” said the Raptors coach emphatically after practice on Wednesday afternoon.
Casey talked up the 23-year-old former Arizona product, who was tremendous in 14 starts for the Raptors last season (18.1 points, 6.7 assists, 46.7% shooting in 35.3 minutes per game) before adding that at this point, incumbent Jose Calderon is the likely starter.
“It’s going to be a good battle with he and Jose, we’re going to have to figure out who is the best for us coming off the bench, who is going to be our starter,” Casey said.
“(Bayless) does give us juice off the bench ... changing the game, pushing the basketball. If I was leaning one way, it would be that way right now, but I haven’t made my mind up 100%.”
Calderon is both the longest-serving Raptor and the team’s highest-paid player. He is one of the best point guards in the league at running the pick-and-roll and a more consistent shooter than Bayless, but he has been beset by nagging injuries which have turned him from an about average defender to a poor one.
Calderon won the starting job from T.J. Ford in the past but had lost the role to Jarrett Jack last season before Jack was swapped for Bayless.
While historically Calderon has performed far better as a starter than a reserve, he is not the long-term answer, so at some point, Casey and the Raptors probably will extend Bayless’ role if he doesn’t start right off of the bat.
Casey considers Bayless “one of our best ball stoppers,” but acknowledges what most consider Bayless’ main liability: a propensity to score the ball rather than create for others.
“His biggest challenge is handling the pick-and-roll situation, seeing his teammates,” Casey said.
“No question. That’s what the game really comes down to in crunch time. Either running (the pick and roll), or defending it is the toughest thing.”
The Phoenix native was one of the most fierce competitors on the team last season and like all players would prefer to be on the court, but is happy to fill whatever role is required of him.
“I’ve said since I got here that I want to be in Toronto, I love this city. So whatever (Casey) wants me to do I’m going to do it and I’m going to be happy to do it,” Bayless said.
“There is no controversy. If Jose starts it’s fine. If I come off the bench, it’s fine, if I start it’s fine.”
Bayless has been spending a lot of quality time discussing various situations with new assistant coach Johnny Davis, who, like Bayless, was both a starter and a reserve in the NBA.
Davis won the NBA title in 1977 with Portland and averaged 12.9 points and 4.5 assists per game in a lengthy career.
“He was a point guard in the league for a long time,” Bayless said.
“He’s helped me a lot since he’s been here. It’s only been a week, but we’ve talked about a lot of different things. I’m really looking forward to working with him for the rest of the year and a lot of years to come.”