Make or break time for Bayless

Jerryd Bayless will start at point guard for the Raptors while veteran Jose Calderon nurses a...

Jerryd Bayless will start at point guard for the Raptors while veteran Jose Calderon nurses a sprained ankle. (FRED THORNHILL/Reuters file photo)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:05 PM ET

TORONTO - With Andrea Bargnani on the sidelines for 26 of 28 games, the Raptors went back to school offensively and eventually did figure out a way to score without their biggest offensive threat.

With Jose Calderon out for the next handful of games with a sprained ankle, scoring is once again going to take a hit.

Ironically the man who replaces Calderon, his backup Jerryd Bayless, is probably a better pure scorer than Calderon himself.

Part of the reason for that is Calderon’s point guard mindset is such that if there’s a chance to get a teammate a shot or take one himself, he will almost always make the pass to a teammate. Coaches from Sam Mitchell through Jay Triano and now Dwane Casey have repeatedly asked Calderon to take those open shots when they present themselves only to see Calderon find an open teammate and pass off.

It’s how he was taught to play the point guard position and only in the most dire situations will he ever revert to becoming anything close to a volume shooter.

Bayless, on the other hand is a guy who looks for his own shot first, although he admitted his primary goal this year has been to become a more well-rounded point guard and perhaps quiet some of his critics who say he can only create for himself.

What is going to be most interesting to watch over the next few games is how this team responds to a point guard who is trying to become more like Calderon while not turning his back on his own gift for scoring.

The fact that it comes with Bargnani still finding his own shooting rhythm, not to mention game fitness after that extended time off with a left calf strain is only going to make things that much tougher.

Casey saw his team’s scoring drop to just 81 points a game in the first six that Bargnani missed this season.

It might be even worse this next little while with Bargnani still not operating at peak form and Calderon waiting for the swelling in his ankle to subside.

The way this team is built, any disruption in the offensive flow can have a profound effect.

The scorers they do have need the ball in particular spots to be effective. Calderon, having started the first 40 games of the season is more aware of just how each and every Raptor prefers to receive the ball than even the coaching staff.

“He and Jerryd are two different guys,” Casey said. “Jerryd is good at what he does as far as creating and getting his own but our guys need, DeMar needs, Andrea needs, our bigs need a guy who can kind of spoon feed them and get them the ball at the right place and make sure it’s on time.”

Listening to Casey after Bayless had a six-assist, 16 point afternoon in a loss to Milwaukee that saw the Raptors put up 99 points, it sounded very much like Bayless even surprised his head coach a little with his play.

Bayless was particularly effective in the first half when he dished out four of his six assists and had everyone who took the floor score at least one field goal.

It’s a detail Calderon himself would appreciate more than most, but Bayless knows convincing people he can be equal parts distributor and scorer is not something that can be done in the short haul.

It’s something that will have to come over time.

The Raptors will have to make a decision on Bayless and his future with the team this summer. By not picking up the option on his rookie contract earlier this season, he can become a restricted free agent his summer.

What Bayless can show them over this stretch while Calderon is out will undoubtedly play a major role in whether the Raps make an effort to keep him or let him go to another team.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca

@Mike_Ganter


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