Raptors' point guard Calderon faces toughest test yet

Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

RaptorsHQ takes a look at what could be a very interesting point guard situation this season for Toronto.

Jose Calderon has heard it all. Whether it be praise for his positive decisions offensively or criticism for his play on the defensive end, he's experienced every possible situation that comes with being a point guard for the Toronto Raptors.

Coming off a rather impressive outing at this year's London Olympics games, Calderon has been withering in the spotlight that is the welcoming of new acquisition, Kyle Lowry. "I'll be happy," Calderon said with a smile recently, as his teammates piled in for an unofficial scrimmage a week before training camp kicked in. "I'm always happy."

Although Calderon has sparked interest from a number of teams across the league in need of a strong facilitator at the helm, GM Bryan Colangelo doesn't seem to be in much of a hurry to move the Spaniard.

Each year, Calderon has been posed questions concerning the point guards hedging for the starting job, whether it be T.J Ford, Jarrett Jack or Jerryd Bayless, and yet he's ultimately outlasted them all.

However, heading into his eighth season with the Raptors - which no other player has done in a Raps' jersey - through the final year of a deal that pays him over $10 million a season, he'll be facing his toughest competition yet in the form of Kyle Lowry.

Lowry, acquired from Houston after the Raptors' push for Steve Nash failed, is under contract for the upcoming two years with a total tab of just under $12 million. As it stands now, unless there's an early injury or a big surprise, Calderon will be the backup to Lowry to start the season.

In the grand scheme, head coach Dwane Casey will not concede the notion that Lowry will start, as both Colangelo and himself pride themselves on welcoming healthy competition throughout training camp.

Although, when one reads in between the lines, it's hard to believe that management would give up a lottery pick in return for a solid two-way guard to simply come off the bench. With the tough, hard-nosed defensive style of play that Casey hopes to continue to ingrain into the system, it would only make sense to start the relentless Philadelphia product.

"Kyle, he's an alpha dog," Casey said. "He's a leader." Coming off a season where he averaged 14.3 points, 6.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds a game; the former Villanova guard made a major push last season in almost becoming an all-star, as he undoubtedly took his game to another level.

"Kyle's a different kind of player than Jose, a different kind of point guard. We need that type of toughness, that approach that he brings to the table. That doesn't demean Jose's approach or his style of play. I think we can have them co-exist on the court quite a bit together," Casey said.

In this case, the term - co-exist - can be perceived to be the safest way to describe what could be a very interesting situation this year. The two point guards who seem to be a good fit, being able to mesh thanks to different styles of play, but a lot of this will depend on how effective both are in the minutes they're given.

"Coach is going to give you more or less minutes depending on how you work. But it's nothing new here, I've been eight years here so I know how this works," Calderon said.

And just to make things even more interesting at this position, the Raptors acquired former Bulls point guard John Lucas III in the off-season, a 5'11 30-year-old who averaged 7.5 points and 2.2 assists per game in 49 games in Chicago last season, but who has been one of the standout players so far for the Dinos in pre-season. If Lucas continues to play at the current level, it may make moving Jose that much easier for the Raptors' to swallow.

In football, having two quality quarterbacks can be either a blessing or a curse, since you ideally want a clear-cut starter and a backup. In the case of the Raptors', controversy can either be welcomed or avoided, but in the end, nothing but results will matter.

Results that may or may not see all three point guards remaining with the team through the entirety of the season.

BRANDON GRAHAM

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