While a 108-88 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday night proved that the organization's new lineup has plenty of work to do if they're going compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the loss wasn't the main focus after the game.
Kyle Lowry had been hurt, taken out of the game late in the second quarter with what the team is calling a right ankle sprain. And now, a franchise that carried so much potential into the 2012-2013 season has been left to hope that their new point guard, who had injected optimism into Toronto's fan base with his impressive play at both ends of the court, recovers quickly and can return to the lineup sooner rather than later.
Doug Smith of the Toronto Star pointed out that at first glance, it looked like a harmless stumble at the end of an ordinary play. Unfortunately sometimes that's all it takes and after a second look on replay it appeared Lowry landed awkwardly on Serge Ibaka's foot sending the 26-year-old Lowry to the floor grimacing in pain.
There's no denying the negative impact any sort of extended absence for Lowry would bring to Toronto. Heading into Tuesday night he was leading the team in points per game, rebounds and assists and as Smith pointed to, he appeared to be meshing well with newly re-signed shooting guard DeMar DeRozan.
But in the short-term this is a Raptors team that needs to recover from a slow 1-3 start to the season without Lowry. And if there's any positive to come from the injury it's that at least the team has depth at the point guard position and can turn to a veteran in Jose Calderon to lead the offence while Lowry recovers.
Calderon was the team's starting point guard for much of the last seven years before the acquisition of Lowry pushed him into a backup role. For the 31-year-old Spaniard it's an opportunity to showcase that he's still worth more than second unit minutes.
"Jose is a veteran player and he'll be ready to go," Raptors coach Dwane Casey told the media after Tuesday's loss. "That's why I kept his minutes to a minimum tonight. He'll have to play big minutes and John [Lucas III] is a capable point guard, so they'll have to be ready to go. Knowing Kyle, he's a tough guy and he'll get back as soon as he can.''
But it's not just the point guard's who'll need to step up in the absence of Lowry to prevent an early season skid. Power forward Andrea Bargnani has averaged just 13.8 points per game in his first four appearances this season. The former first-overall pick will need to bring the type of offensive production he did in the first part of the Raptors 2011-2012 campaign when he led the offence averaging more the 22 points per game prior to suffering a calf injury that kept him out for extended periods the rest of the season.
Lowry is expected to be re-evaluated prior to the team's Wednesday night tilt with the Dallas Mavericks, but for the Raptors the focus needs to be on bouncing back from a disappointing performance without him.