If you watched the Raptors piss away a big early lead on Sunday and then eventually let the Bucks dominate them in the fourth quarter, you probably directed much of your frustration and put a lot of the blame on the poor play of Toronto’s bench, and specifically Kyle Lowry.

Lowry looked like a shell of the player we raved about in the first week of the season or even in his first few games back from injury, as over the last week or so, the point guard that was supposed to inherit the “keys” to Toronto’s offence and future has looked hesitant, slow and generally uncomfortable running the Raptors’ second unit.

As I wrote after Friday’s blowout victory over the Bobcats, it’s great that Lowry is looking for his teammates, sharing the ball and buying in to the selfless mentality that helped the Raptors inch closer to respectability over the last month, but for the Raps to even come close to their ceiling this season, they’re going to need Kyle to play more like…well…Kyle.

On the surface, you look at the raw numbers and see that Lowry’s offensive rating, defensive rating, shooting percentages and assist percentage have all improved since making his return to the lineup in the Raptors’ overtime win in New Orleans. In addition, while the Raptors went 2-14 in Lowry’s first 16 games of the season, they are 5-3 since a much more reserved version of Lowry entered the team’s second unit.

The truth, though, is that other than a big win against the Blazers, the victories since Lowry’s return have come against bottom feeders like the Hornets, Magic, Sixers and Bobcats, so it’s hard to say that the team is better off.

No, the Raptors would actually be better off if Lowry could find a balance between the player that was jacking up rushed shots and gambling on defence during the team’s worst stretch of the season and the player that now seems content to take only a handful of shots per game while often deferring to less capable teammates. I mean it was nice to see Lowry looking for Acy to get the hard working rookie involved up 20 against the Bobcats, but it’s just downright frustrating when Lowry’s passing up his own shot to look for Acy in a close game against the Bucks in the fourth quarter.

Lowry’s at his best when he’s attacking off of the dribble, putting defences under pressure, getting to the rim and then either drawing contact or drawing a second defender before kicking it out to an open teammate. He’s at his best when he recognizes his defender is sagging off of him before quickly dropping a three-pointer in his face. That’s his game, and when he plays that way, Kyle puts up the kind of performances we saw in the season opener against the Pacers (21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, five steals) or even in his first game back against the Hornets (17 points, eight assists, three rebounds, one steal, two blocks).

Jose Calderon’s perimeter-oriented game is obviously effective in its own right, but it’s not Lowry’s game, and the team shouldn’t be asking Kyle to conform to that style. What the Raptors need is for Lowry to play his own game to compliment that of Calderon’s and to give opposing defences another style to prepare for, not for Lowry to become some toned down version of himself and another version of Calderon.

The six-game homestand and the easiest portion of the Raptors’ schedule is over, and part of the reason they weren’t able to fully take advantage of it (3-3 on the homestand simply isn’t good enough) is because they didn’t have the Kyle Lowry that they traded for anywhere near his best. If the Raptors have any chance of recovering with the schedule getting tougher again, they’ll need that Lowry to show up and steal minutes away from Calderon before eventually supplanting him as the starter again.

That’s not a knock on Calderon, who has been excellent running the first team and whose play helped salvage the season. But the Raptors need Lowry going forward a hell of a lot more than they need Jose. It’s on Kyle to force the issue, and on the team/coaching staff to tell him that they’re okay with him doing it.

Unfortunately, judging by the last few games, that might not happen anytime soon.

Comments (52)

  1. I’ve been one of lowry’s biggest supporters on this blog and others (in the midst of several calderon fanboys) but he has to start playing better and more aggressively. It’s like he saw calderon play and figured thats how he should play in order for the team to be successful.

    Regardless, I think casey deserves a large portion of the blame for whats gone wrong with lowry. Firstly, by encouraging this calderon like play or not stopping it. Also, the inconsistent minutes off the bench dont help lowry either. Especially when glorified scrub alan anderson is playing 30 mins/nite against the mil backcourt which is inexcusable. Secondly, lowry should have never lost his starting job in the first place. Why? Because calderon was the starter when they beat 5 awful teams in a row? Just doesnt make any sense to me. The raptors coaching staff have to realize lowry is the better player and is the future at the position. Not freaking calderon who is a very good backup pg i might add and a solid nba’er but just not the same caliber player as lowry. I mean, is val going to lose his starting job to amir when he gets back? I doubt it. So why should lowry? When the team was playing like shit before the road game at por it had much more to do with bargnani and his deficiencies than what lowry was doing wrong. Yeah, he played hero ball but look whats around him. Not much at all. He is the best player ont eh team and decided to take matters in his own hands. Cant fault him for that.

    • Ya i agree with you that Lowry never should’ve lost the starting spot to begin with and I’m hopeful that this is a Calderon showcase more than anything else and Lowry’s in on the plan. I have doubts tho given the non-aggressive style wtih which he’s been playing.

      • 0-4 and minus 13 and cant hold on to a 20 point lead? I agree this guy deserves to start the rest of the season.

        Quick the Nets are dying to give us Deron Williams for a far superior Lowry… The most coveted point guard in the NBA!

        • That’s a pretty ignorant comment considering D-will has definitely had his share of struggles this year. You can’t pick and choose specific game stats to evaluate a player. What about some of the numbers Lowry has put up this year?

          • But it’s ok to discredit Calderon when he plays a good game due to a “weak” schedule?

            How is that not picking and choosing?

          • @cool moe d

            Weve seen enough of calderon over the years to know what he can and cant do. Lowry needs to be given more of a chance to start and play major minutes. Calderon isnt the future. Lowry should be. BTW, I dont think lowry is better than dwill but a productive lowry isnt as far off as you think.

        • Lets see what you can get done in 17 minutes fella.

          Promised the “keys to the car” at the start of the season, loses his job to injury and now the “he’s got to play better” talk while every night not knowing how may minutes he’ll play.lol

          Casey has handled this situation poorly.

    • Maybe the Raptors coaching staff can see who is the better PG and its not Kyle Lowry. Tell me what has he shown us that makes you think he is the PG of our future.
      Why did Memphis replace him with Mike Conley and Houston with Goran Dragic.. We’re not taliking about CP3 or Tony Parker.

      Just shy of halfway into the season, name me one player that he has developed chemistry with. From what I have seen I have serious reservations that he can run an offence.

      • Well, derozan meshed pretty well with lowry the first part of the season.

      • Memphis didn’t replace him, they had a timeshare with Conley and Lowry. Technically, Conley was drafted a year later than Lowry (2007 vs. 2006) but Lowry only played in 10 games in his rookie year and he wasn’t the starter at that time either. Second, Lowry was a late first rounder and Conley went 4th overall, from strictly a public perception standpoint, which one would you trade if you had two guys splitting minutes?

        With respect to Houston, Lowry did lose his starting job to Dragic but then Houston was willing to let him walk. Also, Lowry took Brooks’ starting job while in Houston. Now Brooks isn’t good or anything but to paint it like all Lowry does is lose starting gigs all over the league is disingenuous.

  2. Alan Anderson needs to stop being ‘Chuck City’, and I’ve been saying this even through our winning streaks. He is a great defender and has hit a few big shots this year, but he needs to stop taking ill-advised contested shots early in the clock. I’d rather see him drive the ball more as opposed to shooting long contested 3′s. I think his head is a lil swollen and he’s trying to be Kobe..but that’s the last thing we need from him right now, especially in tight games against teams we’re trying to catch. I’d rather see Lowry chucking up those shots and being this team’s volume shooter.

  3. With the upcoming schedule, the PG situation is a bit of a Catch-22. If Lowry returns to his former self and the Raps still lose the bulk of their remaining January games, then some will say that Calderon should have played more.

    If Calderon plays as he currently is and the Raps still lose, than some will suggest that acquiring Lowry was a waste because he hasn’t helped matters. The difficult match-ups coming up make it a sort of can’t win proposition for Lowry.

    I agree with the post that Lowry needs to return to his former self, but I think the general difficulty of the upcoming schedule will make it easy to cast doubt on Lowry’s relative value to the team. I guess what I’m trying to say is that even if Lowry returns to his former self, it won’t be enough to successfully deal with upcoming teams like the Bulls, Heat and Clippers.

  4. So you want Lowry to hog the ball? If Lowry haden’t changed his game, Terrence Ross would not have emerged during the win streak. The raptors lost to the better team, get over it.

    • Terrence ross emerged? He had one good game against portland. Hes a rookie. As far as Im concerned he should be trade bait to get an upgrade on the wing along with bargs, calderon, davis, derozan etc. Pretty much anyone not named val or lowry.

      • Yes emerged, as in he did nothing, now he actually looks like a basketball player. Derozan’s not going anywhere, that’s why they signed him for 4 years. So we have an up and coming big man in Ed Davis who can actually rebound, and you say trade him, smart.

        • Not for anything. Id trade davis in the right deal, yes. What do you think davis’s upside is? Raps need all star level talent or upside at least. To me, davis’s upside is a very productive bench player. It might seem harsh. Some ppl might disagree but I dont that much more in him. Just my opinion.

    • I don’t know where you’re seeing that I want Lowry to “hog the ball.” I want him to find a balance. A good offensive player passing up open shots and a penetrating guard who isn’t driving can be just as damaging as a chucker.

    • That’s a specious argument at best

  5. The first commenter is correct. I’m not sure how this article could be written as is without ANY mention of Casey and the media.

    Lowry has been beaten into submission to be just like Calderon. What is he supposed to think when everyone is praising Jose for his style of play and calling Lowry’s selfish? Listen to how Leo and Jack commentate on games and it’s just sickening. They criticized Lowry for being aggressive an taking shots. Then they praised him when he was playing exactly like Calderon. Now that he’s had a bad game (or a few), they’re now criticizing him for not being aggressive enough.

    I’m sure he’s getting the same message from the coaching staff. Unfortunately, sometimes winning doesn’t solve everything. Especially when those wins come against terrible teams at home. If the Raptors want to be a playoff team, they need Lowry starting and playing like the real Lowry. Not like Calderon.

  6. This is the problem the Raptors have been having for a very long time now. Its internally an organizational problem. I don’t quite understand the fascination of people of debating of who should be starting or who should be off the bench. For example with recent great performances by Amir Johnson and Jose Calderon people who are Jose supporters want him to stay as a Raptor beyond his contract and not trade him at the deadline. For me this is the exact same reason why the team can’t compete. The argument that Jose has been here all these years and upstart and PG brought in to dethrone him is the same reason why the Raptors are mediocre for years. Back to the point the team is not good enough to debate who should be starting and not good enough to say Amir or Jose should start because of their recent play. We have to hand the keys to Lowry and let him show what he is capable off. As long as Jose is running the show culture would never change, the culture of being mediocre.

    • Jose calderon had his time the past years and now he starts to play better at te end of his contract i hope kyle lowry doesnt leave because of the coach or anything hes the raptors future pg and needs to start on the team like nowww calderon had his time

  7. Lowry has become a little too passive lately. Sometimes, looking for the open guy too often can be a bad thing, especially when you have a good shot available. But as you said, he needs to find that balance of taking his shot when it’s there and passing.

    I’d personally like to see Lowry back in the starting unit to see what he can do without Bargnani. Perhaps Bargnani was part of the problem there.

    • Bargnani didn’t cough up the lead last night

      • So what? Lowry deserves the chance to start again. Especially now that Bargnani’s out.

        • Actually, no he doesn’t.
          Jose has outplayed him.
          And there really is no discussion about it. Jose is a better PG than Lowry.
          I see your error, you are going on Lowry’s potential. Just like Memphis and Houston did.

          I hpoe Lowry turns into that starting PG of the future but nothing he has done this season makes me think he can become that guy. He can’t run an offence.

          • Jose has not outplayed him. Lowry has not been given a proper chance. Lowry has been much better than jose in certain games such as the NO and SAC games. Yet, he still hasnt gotten his starting job back. Thats casey’ss fault for not recognizing better talent and utilizing it properly. BTW, lowry has improved significantly from his memphis days and got injured in hou and had the argument with mchale which led to less playing time. Not a strong argument.

          • And Lowry had outplayed Calderon at the beginning of the year, so I really have no idea where you’re going with this.

            What are you talking about ” just like Memphis and Houston did”? Memphis wanted to develop Conley, and in Houston he didn’t get along with the coach.

            Calderon is not a better player than Lowry.

          • Who is the better PG – what has Lowry done is his career that makes you think that?
            You are HOPING he turns into that guy, just like Ford, Jack and Bayless.

            And Jose keeps going and going and going

          • He didn’t lose his starting job in Memphis and Houston to Chris Paul and Tony Parker.
            He lost it to Mike Conley and Goran Freeken Dragic

          • You’re assuming he lost his starting job because of a talent issue. Which isn’t true at all.

            Mike Conley is arguably the better player right now, and had a much higher ceiling at the time, so it only made sense for Memphis to go with him.

            In Houston he got injured and also didn’t get along with the coach. So they had no other choice but to trade him.

          • Who is the better PG?

          • On Toronto? Lowry.

      • Lowry didn’t play well, along with the rest of the bench…..

        • This isn’t a bash Lowry situation. It is not his fault that Jose can run an offence better

          • Calderon play better than Lowry, but they need Lowry too as a good back-up to win games, as well as the rest of the bench.

        • I definitely think Jose is a reality, and that you want Lowry to play better than Jose, but in fact he is playing worst than Jose.

          You always imagine unseen/unchecked potentials on new people coming that nobody saw… TJ Ford, Jack, Bayless, Lowry… whoelse?

          Jose is better than all this mentioned above, sorry.

  8. The Raps have a pretty big fucking problem at the PG position now. Lowry looks to me like he is pissed off. He wasn’t happy being demoted in Houston after he got injured, and the same thing has happened here when his new GM was pegging him as the future PG after the trade. The guy was clearly playing too much hero ball at the start of the season, granted, but he was also easily the team’s best player at the time. Pegging all those 4th quarter collapses on him is insane. Yeah, the team started winning with Jose starting, but people pretending like that had nothing to do with Bargs being out, the good play of Anderson and Ross which wasn’t there to start, and the schedule easing up are deluded. The message to him in demoting him was play more like Jose, and he’s taking it too personally and being an ass about it.

    Regardless of where you stand on Jose vs. Lowry, the team has to make a fucking decision. If they don’t want to hand the keys to Lowry, better trade him. It’s like Wolstat says…bad asset management. You traded a lottery pick for this guy, he was playing great but a bit too selfish, and then you demote him thinking what exactly about the consequences?

    And what becomes of Jose? Is he even going to want to come back after being dangled in so many trades? Does the brass want to commit to him now? Casey obviously loves him, but he’s been around a long time and the brass has never felt comfortable committing to him as the starting PG.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they ship them both out in packages to get back another PG and a SF.

  9. The match was lost be cause the bench was unable to score, your always failing beloved Lowry on top of them, making 0 from 4, -13, and being unable to play on a +20 situation. And you want him to be starter against JC that made 21 and 8. Are you really relative to Lowry or what ??

    • Off Bench 15 Games 22.0 Min 2.6-6.5 .398 FG% 1.4-3.5 .404 3PT% 1.5-1.5 .957 FT% 1.3 Rebs 4.2 Asts 0.1 Blks 0.5 Stls 1.5 TOs 8.1 Pts

      This was Calderon off the bench this year, how many people were clamoring for him to start at the time? From what I remember he also criticized for not running the offense well off the bench plus being awful on defense.

  10. Anyway, not all the fault is only on Lowry this time… the unfortunate match of an scoreless bench made the difference.

  11. If the starting five, including a very good Calderon, (yes, that happened too) would have become only a little help from the bench, the yesterday’s match would have been a win. That’s fact.

    Regarding Lowry, he has to earn the keys of the car, and right now he does not deserve them at all. He was unable to get over of the second unit of the Bucks. He should improve.

    However, not everything is about PGs. What about the rest of the bench?

  12. So much hate on Calderon, that’s the real problem.Some people wants to get rid of him no matter how and they are rooting for every new PG as if they were the second coming of Gary Payton.

    Let’s be realistic. Lowry is a good PG but not great. He couldn’t get a spot in the worst Grizzlies roster of the last years, and ultimately lost the starter spot to Dragic in Houston. He only achieved the playoffs one season, playing less than 20 minutes. And his career % of victories is very similar to Calderon.

    Of course Calderon is a good PG but not a game changer. But neither is Lowry, Ford, or Jack. So, what’s the problem with splitting minutes beetween them?

  13. So much hate on Calderon, that’s the real problem.Some people wants to get rid of him no matter how and they are rooting for every new PG as if they were the second coming of Gary Payton.

    Let’s be realistic. Lowry is a good PG but not great. He couldn’t get a spot in the worst Grizzlies roster of the last years, and ultimately lost the starter spot to Dragic in Houston. He only achieved the playoffs one season, playing less than 20 minutes. And his career % of victories is very similar to Calderon.

    Of course Calderon is a good PG but not a game changer. But neither is Lowry, Ford, or Jack. So, what’s the problem with splitting minutes beetween them? The team has always played better with a two good PG rotation. So, what’s the point here? To win or to substitute Calderon on the roster?

    Well, Lowry will improve because is not as bad as the last game (as good as the first one neither). But sorry, it’s stupid to give him some kind of superstar status, being perennial starter and getting +30 minutes no matter how. He hasn’t showed anything yet in his career. In fact, this one is his best season.

  14. Jose played way more aggressive (looking for his shot) than Lowry on Sunday.

    Jose looks really good this year. But the more minutes he gets the greater chance of injury.

    I say keep them both; Lowry is injury prone too.

    Lowry will get his chance…its a long season.

  15. Holy shit, that is a lot of comments. Raptors fans and PG comments. Never fails.

    I think you hit it right on the head with this comment:
    it’s just downright frustrating when Lowry’s passing up his own shot to look for Acy in a close game against the Bucks in the fourth quarter.

    As for Amir starting, he should be if we are taking a run at the playoffs. I was happy as heck to see JV starting when I thought we had no chance.

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