car

Kyle Lowry’s injury scare reminds us that the season could fall to pieces.

Preseason has a funny way about itself. It looks like the real thing, it sounds like the real thing and if we suspend our disbelief just enough, it even feels like the same thing. In our heart of hearts we know it’s fake, a mirage, a cheap dalliance, but either way you cut it 6-1 is a good thing. We’re excited, and we damn right should be.

Just for the fun of it, let’s go through all the positives from this preseason:

  • Derozan’s post-game
  • Landry Fields returning to form
  • Rudy Gay’s shooting percentages
  • Terrence Ross’ occasional hot spurts
  • Kyle Lowry’s fitness and effectiveness

That last point about Kyle Lowry excites me the most (and no it’s not just because I own him in several fantasy leagues). Our roster, outside of Lowry, is an expensive race car.

Demar and Rudy are the wheels, propelling us forward and shouldering the scoring load. Jonas Valanciunas is the engine, tirelessly working for the betterment of the team. Amir is the fuel, and not just any “regular” that sells for exorbitant prices at your local gas station, no he’s rocket fuel, ready to push the team as fast (and as far) as it wants to go.

But this race car needs a driver, and that driver is Kyle Lowry. He’s the guy who has his hands on the steering wheel and his feet on the pedals. He dictates how fast or how slow the team will play, he dictates who gets the ball, and most importantly, he dictates where this team will end up.

This is why the news about Kyle Lowry’s finger injury got me panicking. By all accounts he’ll be fine and he wont be missing any games, but it served as a wake-up call to Raptors fans that this race car could very well be stuck in the driveway if anything were to happen. If Lowry were to go down, his replacements would turn the Toronto Raptors into re-runs of “Canada’s Worst Driver”.

But realistically, the same can be said about any of the starters. Will we really go anywhere if we’re missing a wheel? We definitely can’t reach our maximum speed if we filled the car up with regular oil (sorry Tyler). And if the engine went down? Sheeeeiiiitt, the coaching staff would have to get out and push.

That’s the reality of the situation. The success of the season is contingent on the health and productivity of every single starter because there is absolutely no depth on the roster. The 2013/14 Toronto Raptors are the 2012/13 Portland Trail Blazers. If Jonas goes down, Aaron Gray gets pressed into regular minutes as the third big while Amir has to once again courageously fill in at center. If Amir goes down, Tyler Hansbrough jumps into the starting lineup and he kills the flow of the offense with his aversion to passing. If Derozan goes down, Rudy gets pressed into having to shoot more, and vice-versa for a potential Gay injury. Finally, and perhaps most horrifically, if Kyle Lowry went down, DJ Augustin would be the de facto starting point guard. You might know him as this guy:

Some teams insulate themselves from injury by acquiring more quality players (see: Indiana this offseason). Some teams are simply immune to injury because they have players who can expand their roles (see Miami without anyone other than Lebron). Should one or two injuries occur, they can withstand the loss and carry on with nary a slight drop-off in production and win-totals.

This Raptors team do not have depth, nor do we have players who can reasonably expand their roles without seeing a serious drop-off in production. If one of our starters were to go down, we’d be in serious trouble.

So…fingers crossed whenever you see Kyle Lowry fight for an offensive rebound with the big boys, or whenever Amir dives into the stands for a loose ball because an injury could very well be the difference between the playoffs and NBA no-man’s land.

Keep calm and carry on.