Kyle Lowry is back practising.
Jose Calderon could not go on Sunday.
That’s definitely one way to avoid a point guard controversey.
But in all seriousness, it appears the next evolution of the Toronto Raptors is upon us.
Barring something completely unexpected, Lowry, held back through the first week of pre-season games with a strained adductor muscle in his left leg, assumes control of the Raptors offence beginning Wednesday.
The offence he joins is one that remains a work in progress, his absence being just one factor in that equation.
“We still have a ways to go,” head coach Dwane Casey said as his Raptors returned to the court following their first full day off in two weeks.
“Our timing offensively, our reads offensively, we really have to make sure we hone in on that in the next couple of weeks and find a balance.”
What Casey is seeing is an offence that is getting the ball up the floor promptly but then failing to take advantage of that speedy arrival.
The whole point of getting the ball upcourt quickly is to catch the defence either unsettled or just settling in and using that to their fullest advantage. Instead, the ball is arriving nice and early, but once there it slows right down allowing the defence to settle in, or worse, the ball is being turned over and taken back the other way.
“We had too many dead possessions between running and trying to get into a half court set,” Casey said. “We should be able to flow into it with no issues.”
And don’t point the finger at Calderon for this. Before hamstring issues took him out of the game, Calderon, according to Casey, was passing the ball up the court exactly as requested by his head coach. It’s what happens next that needs the work.
“Our speed wasn’t the issue with our turnovers,” Casey said. “It was getting the ball to the right place safely and reading those situations that was our problem. It was our 2’s and 3’s that had trouble getting us into our offence when the point guard was weak side or after he had thrown it ahead.
“Now we have to recognize whether that wing has an attack or go right into our offence. Right now we’re not recognizing that moment. If you don’t get it quickly, you lose that moment and then all hell breaks loose.”
The way the Raptors offence works, much of it is initiated by the wing players and that’s done by design. Eventually, as the new faces start to feel comfortable with one another, it will be an advantage, but right now it’s tripping them up.
“We have Landry there who is a high IQ basketball player,” Casey said. “DeMar has grown into that. We have some really good wing runners so we want to take advantage of that. Unless your point guard is dribbling it up every time, kick it ahead and now that wing becomes a point guard and has to make a decision and that’s where our issues are coming right now.”
Fields too recognizes there is work to be done there, but he has seen progress already at the other end of the court in just a few games and sees no reason the same progress can’t be made when the Raptors have possession.
“Defensively we got a lot better than we were in Detroit,” Fields said of Friday’s return match in Toronto. “But offensively we still need some work. We still need to integrate some guys and know where we are supposed to be out there. Kind of get a better flow with the offence so that’s something we are still working on.”
As for the expected debut of Lowry at the point this week, Fields has an idea of what to expect based on some pre-training camp and training camp scrimmages, but he’s as interested as anyone to see how the offence runs with Lowry at the controls.
“He’s a smart player,” Fields said. “He is demanding as a point guard too. He’s very assertive about what he wants. But like I said, he’s smart and he helps us all out because he makes great passes, he knows where we are supposed to be and he makes things simple out there.”
Calderon is similar in that he also makes it simple for his teammates, but there are obvious differences in the games of the two Raptors point guards.
Worth watching through games Wednesday against Washington and Friday versus the Knicks in Montreal is how Lowry’s style of play will impact the Raptors offence.
MORE DAYS OFF COMING
Two consecutive weeks without a day off wasn’t the way Dwane Casey wanted to go, but it is the way things wound up.
The Raptors had their first off day Saturday following a week of training camp in Halifax and a trio of pre-season games last week.
Looking ahead, Casey said it’s going to be important to schedule more consistent rest days.
“We did not have a day off in two weeks, which is unusual, but we will try to get a day off a little bit more regular from here on,” Casey said of scheduled off days. “Maybe one out of every four or five days or something like that just so the body can recover.”
Unlike a year ago, there are plenty of opportunities to practise this season and while that’s good for the mental side of the game, all that physical activity can take it’s toll over the course of an 82-game schedule.