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Examining the possibilities of life after Lowry – Raptors Republic

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Martin the Warrior was probably the most important mouse in the history of Redwall. It was his memory that inspired Matthias in the original, eponymous Redwall. It was his efforts that resulted in the building of Redwall itself in the novel Martin the Warrior. The series, however, had to continue after Martin’s departure. By the time the 2000s rolled around, Martin’s name didn’t even appear in The Taggerung, the series’s 14th entry. Redwall had evolved beyond Martin, just as the Toronto Raptors will one day evolve beyond Kyle Lowry.

Kyle Lowry is on the final year of a three-year, $100 million contract. He is extended into 2020-21, for which year he will be paid $30 million. He is also 33 years old and has played the 10th-most minutes in the league since he joined the Raptors 2012-13, accumulating a huge 18,647. And Lowry has scrapped and clawed and fought for every single one of those 18,647 minutes; for example, his 186 charges drawn over that time period ranks third in the entire NBA, behind only Ersan Ilysova and DeMarcus Cousins. Lowry is physical while chasing rebounds, or driving, or shooting, or playing defense, or standing near the rim, or running around the perimeter, or really doing any task involved in playing the game of basketball. 

This makes Lowry excellent. But it also means that at some point his physicality will decline. It must. This is hateful, spiteful reality. An important question, though, is whether the inevitable decline will happen while Lowry is a Raptor.

There are really only three options for what could happen next year between Toronto and Lowry. Toronto could trade him; he will be an extremely good player on an expiring contract. He could fetch a hefty price. Toronto could extend him and keep him for the future, potentially for the remainder of his Hall of Fame career. Or Toronto could simply let the relationship dissolve and melt into air when the season ends. 

Which is the most likely?

It seems farfetched that the Raptors will trade Lowry. There are really two types of players who fetch massive bounties in trades, and Lowry falls right in the middle. There are stars for whom teams will mortgage their futures, and Lowry is a star, but he is too old and expensive for teams to trade multiple assets and hope for long-term value. Teams wouldn’t part with a blue-chip youngster and a draft pick for one year of play from a point guard near retirement. 

The other type of player who fetches a bounty is a short-term rental, someone who boosts a team by a huge margin in the playoff chase. Think Robert Covington for the Houston Rockets. But Lowry makes too much money for that. Also: it’s impossible to match $30 million with promising players on rookie deals, and Toronto has no need to take on dead money and picks in exchange for Lowry. He’s already expiring. 

That all adds up to Lowry being worth more to Toronto as a player than as an asset. 

It is also questionable as to whether the Raptors extend Lowry beyond 2020-21. Toronto has an exceptionally clean cap sheet at the moment, with a vast swathe of space opening in the 2021 offseason with which Toronto can play. They will use it, of course, to chase Giannis Antetokounmpo. Pascal Siakam will of course remain in Toronto then, and Toronto will try to develop OG Anunoby into another dominant two-way wing by that time. Fred VanVleet, too, looks to be a major part of Toronto’s core. 

VanVleet is only 25 years old, and he has plenty of room to grow into his game. He already bears a huge resemblance to Lowry on the court.

“I do see super closeness and a real similarity in who they are, how they are, how they play, that inner drive, that inner characteristic of leadership, toughness, competitiveness, making big plays, making big shots, super high IQ, and I think that naturally draws them right together,” said Nick Nurse. “They are very similar, and we’re lucky to have them both because they’re both very special players.”

VanVleet is currently not close to Lowry’s level of play, but he has years to get there. Lowry, at 25, was not quite as good as Lowry now. Lowry didn’t develop his current level of awareness as a finisher or passer until later in his career; VanVleet remains on the Lowry trajectory. VanVleet will command a massive payday this offseason, and Toronto has to hope that he will grow into a Lowryian role as leader on and off the court. He may never be quite as good as Lowry, but he will play at a very high level for eight more years or so, while Lowry probably only has two or three left. The math is obvious, and Toronto can’t keep both at the money they deserve. They work so well together, and compliment each other, because they are always whirring around both ends of the court, like the two wings on a bee’s back, in-sync, buzzing together, minds bent together in labour and joy. Unfortunately, that sameness, on top of the age gap, is what makes Lowry expendable to the on-court future of the Raptors. VanVleet’s current skill-set and promise of future ability means Toronto already has a ready-made Lowry replacement.

In fact, the Raptors haven’t been this successful with Lowry off the court since he came to Toronto. Toronto’s net rating with Lowry off the court this year is 7.2, better than the teams’s 5.3 rating with him on the court; 2019-20 is the first time ever that Lowry’s off-rating has been better than his on-rating. It’s not that Lowry is ineffective — he’s been brilliant — but simply that Toronto no longer relies on him to the extent that it used to. The initial sketching of a post-Lowry image is starting to take shape in Toronto.

VanVleet is a huge part of that, and he’s a huge reason why the Raptors may fail to offer Lowry another contract worth $30 million a year. It is technically possible that Lowry takes a discount to stay in Toronto, but the team will only be able to offer a pittance, perhaps the full scope of whatever mid-level exception the team owns. It’s questionable whether that would appeal to Lowry — a player permanently slighted by those discounting his value — to keep him in town. 

No, more likely is that Lowry and Toronto part ways amicably. This is the third option, but it’s also the most likely option. 

By all accounts, Lowry was amenable to leaving Toronto the last time he was a free agent. He would have been happy to join the San Antonio Spurs, as he told the Express News in 2017, but Toronto threw $100 million dollars in his direction, and the rest, as they say, is the history of a champion. Lowry and Toronto have long been perfect one another, so perfect as to engender love letters, but it’s possible to imagine scenarios in which each exists without the other. Lowry has. So, too, has Masai Ujiri. That’s life, when life is a billion-dollar business.  

During the off-season of 2021-22, there will probably be at least one franchise who covets Lowry and offers him far more money than the Raptors. Lowry would be an ideal complement to Joel Embiid in Philadelphia, Jimmy Butler in Miami, or really any other star in the league. His game is tailored to fit anywhere. If Toronto can’t offer Lowry a towering stack of money, unlike last time he was a free agent, Lowry will have no shortage of suitors, and this time no Godfather offer to remain in Toronto. If Lowry left, he would instantly boost his new team’s championship aspirations, remain very good for a few years, and then probably retire. Perhaps he could seven sign a one-day deal with Toronto on the way out for good feelings.

It’s conceivable that heading into 2021-22 Toronto doesn’t lure Antetokounmpo away from Milwaukee, or any other superstar, and instead has oodles of cap space and few actual players on the roster. Perhaps, in that scenario, the Raptors do re-sign Lowry to another big-money deal. Perhaps he fades gracefully, first ceding the job of team MVP to Siakam before eventually ceding the job of starting point guard to VanVleet. Those things have already begun. It would be a gentle fade-out, a pleasant one, complete with the allure of nostalgia, increasingly occasional flashes of dominance, and consistent team chemistry.

That scenario would not necessarily be the most competitive road for Toronto, but who knows? Lowry has made a career of overcoming unlikely odds. 

Regardless of which road Lowry and the Raptors take moving forward, it’s important to remember the value of Lowry in the present. Lowry is the real point god, the malevolent fire hydrant, the mouse upon which the entire abbey rests. Lowry is about to represent the Toronto Raptors at the All-Star game for the sixth consecutive year. That’s monumental. No matter which way you slice the pie, Lowry is the greatest Raptor of all time.

Lowry will have a statue outside of Scotiabank Arena. It could display him yelling at a ref, or him taking a charge, or him hitting a jumper, or perhaps him passing the ball to a fortunate teammate. But there will be a Lowry statue. Before then, Lowry could conceivably play for another franchise. If he does, it will be because he and Toronto outgrew each other, because their needs — ever aligned for the greater part of the last decade — traveled in separate directions.

Redwall survived long after Martin the Warrior walked the halls. It thrived, even, with many more best-sellers featuring new and exciting protagonists. Even without Martin himself, Martin’s spirit guided Redwall’s future heroes. The Toronto Raptors will soon be in a similar situation. The team will, one way or another, grow beyond Lowry. He will remain a Raptor, of course, forever. And no matter what the future holds, we should continue to appreciate Lowry for his nightly displays of sports heroism in the meantime.




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Tkachuk: Sens who tested positive for COVID-19 are 'doing well' – TSN

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Brady Tkachuk is hunkered down with family in St. Louis trying to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ottawa Senators winger has also been also keeping close tabs on a pair of teammates who tested positive for the disease.

“Those guys, they’re doing well,” Tkachuk said on one of the NHL’s video conference calls Monday. “We’re a tight group, so we’re always in contact with one another.”

Two of the league’s four players to test positive since the season was suspended March 12 amid the novel coronavirus outbreak are unnamed members of the Senators.

The team played in San Jose, Calif., against the Sharks on March 7 despite a warning from officials in Santa Clara County against holding large public gatherings. The Colorado Avalanche played at SAP Center the following night, and two members of that team have also since tested positive for COVID-19.

“All of us are concerned about (the Ottawa players) and everybody impacted by it,” Tkachuk added.

Reporters have been asked by the league to submit questions ahead of time for the video conferences calls.

Despite being on one of two teams to have players test positive, Tkachuk was only asked one question on the subject by a member of the NHL’s public relations staff during a 35-minute session that also included a trio of Atlantic Division rivals — Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and Detroit Red Wings centre Dylan Larkin.

The Senators said March 17 the first player had tested positive before making the second announcement four days later.

Gord Wilson, the club’s veteran radio colour commentator, revealed Friday he also tested positive for COVID-19.

The Senators had two days off in California following their game in San Jose before meeting the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings on consecutive nights. Ottawa’s contest at the Staples Center on March 11 came 24 hours after the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets — who had four players test positive — played at the same arena against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Avalanche faced off against the Kings at Staples Center on March 9.

COVID-19 pandemic has killed thousands of people across the globe, devastated economies and brought about an era of social distancing and self-isolation.

As for the pause to the NHL season, Tkachuk said he and older brother Matthew, who plays for the Calgary Flames, have been doing their best to stay active.

“Been keeping busy with him and my younger sister,” Tkachuk said. “We’ve got the Peloton (bike) downstairs that we’ve been going on. We’ve been just keeping active with basketball and stuff like that. It gets fired up.

“It’s not stuff we’re not used to, but I’m trying to make the most of it.”

Tavares, who’s at home in Toronto with his wife and young son, said it took some time to process this new reality.

“First couple days just try to get an understanding of kind of where things are at and what’s hit us,” Tavares said. “Since then just try to develop some type of routine, some type of structure.”

Select players from the Metropolitan Division and Pacific Division took part in video conference calls late last week, while the Central Division is scheduled to go Tuesday.

Chara provided the funniest moment of his session when he was asked — every player has been lobbed the same question — which teammate he’d least like to spend time with in quarantine?

The answer: Boston goalie Tuukka Rask.

“The way he farts … the smell is awful,” said Chara, who had the other players cracking up. “He likes his chicken wings.”

Turning serious, Chara, whose Bruins sat first in the overall standings when the league paused after falling in Game 7 of last spring’s Stanley Cup final, said it’s important to put everything in perspective.

“It’s one of those situations that you can’t really control,” said the 43-year-old defenceman. “Right now we all have to look after each other and look after our families. Hockey’s secondary.

“Hopefully we will play again and we’ll see when that’s gonna be.”

On a separate call with a representative from the remaining Atlantic Division teams later Monday, Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber touched on the public service announcement he did on the importance of listening to public health and government officials during the crisis.

“We’re in this together,” Weber said. “As soon as someone’s messing around or not taking it seriously, that’s when things can turn bad for everyone.

“It’s tough times, but we’ve just got to stick together and come through this together.”

Players were also asked their preference for how the league should proceed if it’s allowed to resume this spring or summer.

“It would be tough to jump straight into playoffs, there’s no question about it,” Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman said. “But this is uncharted waters for everyone.

“It’s tough to see where this is going to end.”

Added Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel: “We really don’t know what tomorrow holds, never mind a month from now.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2020.

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Ottawa Race Weekend cancelled due to COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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Ottawa Race Weekend is the latest event to be cancelled due to COVID-19.

Organizers announced Monday they’re calling off the annual race, scheduled this year to take place May 23-24, over fears it would be impossible to maintain a safe distance between runners of the marathon, half-marathon, 10K, 5K, 2K or children’s event.

It’s the first time the event has been cancelled since it began in 1975.

But before you hang up your Vaporflys and hit the couch, Run Ottawa, the organization behind Race Weekend, is offering an alternative that will allow runners to compete while still following the physical distancing guidelines set out by Ottawa Public Health.

Competitors will be offered a spot in a virtual race, where they’ll determine their own route and run or walk their chosen distance through their own neighbourhood. The virtual race will start as early as May 23, but will be spread out over the spring and summer months, until August 31. They’ll receive a race kit, including medal, T-shirt, and even a photograph of them crossing a virtual finishing line.

A runner holds a rubber chicken as he begins the half-marathon in Ottawa on Sunday, May 27, 2018. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press )

“Part of having a long runway to complete the event is that maybe things will be a little bit different further into the summer, and will allow people to run in groups of two or three,” said Ian Fraser, executive director of Run Ottawa.

Run Ottawa said it will partner with the international race timing company Sportstats to create a virtual finish line, using “e-bibs.” Participants will be able to share their results with friends and family, and compare their times with other runners once the final results are published.

The reality is that a full refund for all participants would bankrupt us, and there wouldn’t be a race weekend in 2021.– Ian Fraser, Run Ottawa

Registration, which was halted two weeks ago with around 18,000 runners signed up, will be reopened to allow for more people to join up for the virtual races. 

“There’s a great spirit in the running community that I think is going to see this as something they can celebrate, to push something positive forward in difficult times,” Fraser said.

Run Ottawa had been expecting some 33,000 runners this year.  

The virtual race won’t be a sanctioned event, and the results will not qualify runners for major marathons elsewhere, such as Boston. 

No refunds

There will be no refunds, according to Fraser.

“Pretty much all of the registration money that we take in is spent quite a ways before you actually get to the start line,” he said. “The reality is that a full refund for all participants would bankrupt us, and there wouldn’t be a race weekend in 2021.”

Instead, people who have already registered will be given a 50 per cent discount on next year’s race, which is scheduled for May 28-29.

Run Ottawa considered postponing the event until fall, but worried about the crowded running calendar, and the possibility of ongoing mitigation efforts over COVID-19.

“We’re also not certain that the world’s going to be in a better place by then, and we were really mindful to not double disappoint our participants,” Fraser said.

The decision to proceed with a virtual event is meant to encourage runners to keep going with their fundraising efforts for local charities. In years past, runners have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local charities including The Ottawa Hospital Foundation. 

Fraser said he understands people will be disappointed.

“I’ve been a runner since I was eight years old,” Fraser said. “I understand the hard work that goes into preparing for one of our events. But the journey to get to the finish line is every bit as important as the actual event itself…. I think using running as a way of coping with what we’re going through is really important. I think there are more people running now than I’ve ever seen before.”

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Belarus defiantly keeps playing while the rest of the sports world goes on hiatus – The Globe and Mail

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Fans react during the Belarus Championship soccer match between Torpedo-BelAZ Zhodino and Belshina Bobruisk in the town of Zhodino, Belarus, on March 27, 2020.

Sergei Grits/The Associated Press

With most sports around the world shutting down because of the coronavirus pandemic, longtime Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is proudly keeping soccer and hockey arenas open.

The Eastern European nation of nearly 9.5 million even started a whole new soccer season this month as coronavirus cases rose.

The move has the full support of Lukashenko, who took to the ice in an amateur hockey tournament on Saturday with a few hundred spectators in the stands.

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“It’s better to die standing that to live on your knees,” he said, defending Belarus’ refusal to introduce isolation measures and border restrictions like its neighbours, such as Russia.

Soccer fans in need of their weekly fix are turning to Belarus, home to one of the few professional leagues that is still playing. Reuters

With foreign sports networks having little to show and few other options for sports betting, Lukashenko says the pandemic is a perfect opportunity to put the country’s soccer league on display.

“I look at Russia and some people there are winning a lot on bets, because beforehand they didn’t really know our teams,” Lukashenko said. “Someone’s losing, someone’s winning. It’s all useful.”

Fans entering the stadiums in Belarus are given antiseptic hand gel and some have their temperatures monitored by medics. Few wear masks because they’re not considered necessary for open-air events, Belarus soccer federation spokesman Alexander Aleinik said.

Belarus doesn’t publish daily figures on the spread of the virus. On Friday, the last day for which statistics are available, the country recorded 94 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with no deaths.

The Belarusian league isn’t usually an international attraction. Crowds this season barely average 1,200 and UEFA ranks it the continent’s 25th strongest, just below Norway, Israel and Kazakhstan.

But Russian TV has given its games prominent slots on state sports channels and betting firms around Western Europe are streaming them for customers.

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British fans on social media have picked teams to follow and thrown themselves into a new fandom, elevating obscure players to hero status and berating coaches for supposedly negative tactics.

There isn’t much competition, with betting sites offering little more than Nicaraguan soccer, Tajikistan basketball and Russian table tennis as rivals.

Sergei Melnikov is one of those hoping to make an impression on the mostly empty global sports stage. He is the director of the Isloch club, which beat Smolevichi 1-0 on Sunday to keep pace with the leaders on points.

“The whole world is watching our soccer right now,” Melnikov said. “That means we have to show the best that we’ve got.”

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