This Toronto Raptors team made a trade in the off-season of 2012, to acquire a player who they would name, their “point guard of the future”. The Raptors had dealt a protected 1st round pick (with multiple protections), and Gary Forbes, to the Houston Rockets to acquire guard, Kyle Lowry, who was coming off an all-star calibre season before his injuries started to kick in. At first, many Raptor fans gave praise to Bryan Colangelo (there’s a change).
Looking back at the 1st round selection Toronto traded, it is the 12th pick in this year’s draft, now belonging to the Oklahoma City Thunder after a massive blockbuster deal which sent James Harden to the Houston Rockets, for the Raptors’ pick, and prospects.
What exactly happened to Kyle Lowry this past season? Injuries is of course another major factor to consider, but that is not the factor that held him back from being the Lowry basketball fans had seen in the past. It was the relationship between him, and Coach Dwane Casey and their clash in mindsets towards how the team should run. Coach Casey wanted Lowry to be more passive, a balance between trying to find his own shot and finding teammates, and wanted a little bit of “Calderon” in his game. With that being said, comparing a player to another in terms of how they should play for the team, is not necessarily a way one can get the best out of an individual.
Casey asking Lowry to become something that he just isn’t, and never will be, was the large factor in seeing a slower paced Lowry that consisted of, less shots, no penetration, etc. Raptor fans were seeing very little out of what they expected, rather, they saw a less skilled passing version – redundant as well – of Jose Calderon.
The main strength entering the season, was the the point guard depth of Jose and Lowry (and John Lucas III if you’re feeling like he’s left out), and their different styles, where one could attack, and the other could facilitate and slow down. Raptor fans saw none of that, and which ever of the two was coming off the bench, was not playing above their standards.
There were also numerous reports that Lowry and Casey were not getting along behind the scenes, and that they were constantly trying to pick one another’s brain. The relationship was portrayed by the media, to be a broken one. Casey originally was not allowing Lowry to call all the shots on the court, and not giving him the freedom to run what offense this team was going to get into.
With this relationship being so, complicated, but Lowry and Casey both being big parts of this team – for next season at the very least – the organization has to do something in order to rebuild this relationship. New Raptors GM, Masai Ujiri plans to keep Casey as the coach next season, and stated they will try to rebuild the relationship between Casey and Lowry.
Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun): If Woj is correct that Dwane Casey is staying as coach, tanking unlikely and work to be done to rebuild relationship with Lowry
If this Raptors team wants to be able to take the next step, there needs to be a good relationship between Kyle Lowry, and Coach Casey. Question now is, how do the Raptors fix this situation?
First of all, Casey needs to allow Kyle Lowry to be the scoring, attack-first point guard that he is. The start of the 2012-2013 season, Raptors fans were able to see the potential of Kyle Lowry at his best, and at his full level of confidence, but mostly, before injuries started to hit. In his first three games before injury, he was averaging 23.7 points, 7 assists, 7.3 rebounds, and 3,7 steals. He was attacking the rim, he was playing aggressively hence his rebounding, scoring, and steal numbers. We were seeing Kyle Lowry play with no worries, no looking back, and no one to tell him differently. Allowing Kyle Lowry to be himself, will garner great play from him, and for the team.
Coach Casey should also allow Lowry to be able to run the offensive sets for this team. In the last month of the season – April – Coach Casey was allowing Lowry to have some liberty of running the team’s sets and plays. It was mentioned by Reggie Miller during the Raptor’s nationally televised game on TNT, that Casey was giving a bit more free reign for Lowry to voice out and call the plays, he called it as “getting more on the same page”.
In that month, Lowry had some terrific assist numbers, averaging 8.6 assists, with 4 out of 9 games with double digit assists, also tallying up his season high in assists with 13 in their win against the Washington Wizards.
But, for this relationship to work, it has to have both individuals being receptive to one another, and in this case, Lowry does need to have a bit of “Calderon” in him, in the sense of taking care of the basketball. He averaged 2.3 turnovers a game, which was his second highest average in his career (highest average being the previous season with Houston), and had 14 games where he had +4 turnovers. An attacking and drive-and-kick style does warrant some turnovers because it does lead into a certain player going out of control, but bad turnover numbers is a measure of losing games.
Lowry is also known for having an ego, it was proven in Houston when the media had blown news he had issues with Coach Kevin McHale, which was also one of the reasons Houston had traded him for so little in return. Now that the fans and media were hearing and or putting news of Lowry and Casey having problems, it all comes down to Lowry becoming a more mature person, and acting as a professional.
Rebuilding this relationship between Lowry and Casey is going to be a big step, an important one, especially if this team wants their point guard to be playing at the level fans saw at the beginning of the season, and if this team wants to make that step into the post-season. The issues stated above are obvious, Casey and Lowry are both likely well aware of these issues, but it’s really whether or not Lowry decides to be a mature, professional player, and whether Casey decides to give Lowry a say and be the leader we all potentially saw.
The point guard is an extension of the coach on the floor. Lowry is an extension to Coach Casey on the floor. If this team can’t get Lowry and Casey to create that extension, to create that connection, who knows what to expect? Whatever happens between the two, from now until next season, all of the hopes for success fall largely on the shoulders of the two generals.