TORONTO –It didn’t take very long for Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry to hit it off, especially on the court, but the Raptors’ first-time all-star remembers when he really felt like he was in with the veteran point guard.
“I got to hang out in [Lowry’s] jet one time,” a giddy Siakam recalled, without revealing too many details. “I’ll keep [where we went] between us. He invited me. It was a great text to get. I think that was pretty special.”
But well before they were flying to undisclosed locations on a private jet or sharing the mutual respect and great friendship they’ve developed over four years as teammates, Siakam and Lowry initially bonded through basketball.
The Raptors drafted Siakam 27th overall in 2016. Like most people, Lowry didn’t know much about the 22-year-old rookie from Cameroon when he showed up to training camp a few months later, but extenuating circumstances forced the two players to work together quicker than either would have expected.
With newly acquired power forward Jared Sullinger sustaining an injury during the preseason, Siakam was thrust into the starting lineup right out of the gate. He was extremely raw offensively and his role was limited, but Lowry saw something in the young forward.
Siakam was blessed with an unrelenting motor. His energy seemed endless and he was faster than almost anybody else at his position. Siakam would free himself up by simply outrunning everyone else on the floor at least once or twice a game. Lowry – always looking for Siakam in transition – would find him with a cross-court pass.
This was Siakam’s signature play before he patented his spin move or extended his shooting range, and Lowry made sure the Raptors utilized it.
In his rookie season, 67 per cent of Siakam’s 103 made field goals were assisted. Of those assisted field goals, 43 per cent (30 of 69) were set up by Lowry, with most coming in transition.
However, Lowry’s impact on the early stages of Siakam’s career extended beyond his outlet passes.
“Coming in, he’s always been the kind of guy to talk to you and reach out and have dinners,” Siakam said. “He takes you in and it’s great to have vets like that to look at. I’m definitely fortunate to have had a guy like that in my rookie year to connect [with] like we did, just having him as a big brother you can go to for information. No matter what it is, I know I can send him a text and he’ll have some advice for me.”
As a wide-eyed rookie, Siakam was friendly but reserved. He spent most of his time with fellow first-year players Jakob Poeltl and Fred VanVleet, while Lowry had his best friend, DeMar DeRozan, next to him in the locker room.
For a while, Siakam just tried to observe how vets like Lowry and DeRozan prepared and approached the game.
“I would wait and pick my spots,” he said. “It took a little bit, but I always had the highest respect for those guys.”
Lowry has always been a basketball savant. Over the years, as he’s gotten more patient and become a better leader, he’s spent more time passing that knowledge on to the younger players. Siakam was a special case.
If they were being honest, most people would tell you they never saw Siakam’s ascension – from an energy guy who didn’t pick up the sport competitively until he was 16, to NBA champion, max contract player and all-star starter – coming. It’s an unprecedented jump over such a short period of time.
But Lowry says he’s not surprised. The skills have always been there, even if they weren’t developed yet, and so has the work ethic. He thinks Siakam is just scratching the surface of what he’s capable of.
“I think he’s still growing, he’s not catching up,” said the 33-year-old point guard. “When you [start] playing the game later, it’s a quick turnaround. I think that’s the one thing that he has and I think that’s why he’s just going to continue to get better and better, because he works and works and works. He’s still learning things as he is going.”
Lowry has never looked at it like he’s had to teach Siakam anything. He’ll give him advice, but mostly it’s about offering and providing support.
“I talk to him about the game,” Lowry said. “I just mention things that I see for him. But other than that, I just let him do his thing.”
Siakam will be in Chicago this weekend, playing in his first NBA All-Star Game after being voted in as a starter last month. Most of his family will be there, including his mother, who he says is usually too nervous to watch him play live (he had to tell her the all-star game doesn’t count). It’ll be a special moment for the 25-year-old.
Lowry is making his sixth straight all-star appearance, voted in by the league’s coaches as a reserve. Given what he’s meant to Siakam’s growth as a player and what they’ve already been through together, it’s fitting that they get to share this experience.
Lowry remembers what it was like to make his all-star debut back in 2015 and has told Siakam what to expect, from media demands to rubbing elbows with some of the NBA’s greatest players – past and present.
Siakam will miss going on his annual mid-season vacation with Poeltl – something they’ve done during all-star weekend each year since coming into the league together – but he joked that his good friend and former teammate will understand.
For Siakam, this is a dream come true.
“I mean, obviously it’s validation, because you’re considered one of the best in the league,” Siakam said. “Like, that should mean something. Like I said before, I wanted to be a starter. I wanted to be an all-star – not a borderline all-star. But now it’s like, I want to stay there. I don’t want to be there for one year. So there’s always something bigger to fish for, like something that you can think of that’s bigger than what you’re accomplishing.”
Over the past eight months, Siakam has won an NBA title, been named the league’s Most Improved Player, signed a maximum contract extension, become the face of one of the best teams in the association, and is about to make his all-star debut as a starter. So, what’s next? What’s that next big fish?
“To be honest, I see more championships, I see MVP. I see so much more that I can accomplish,” he said. “There’s no reason to be satisfied. There’s no reason to be complacent.
“I don’t think there’s any ceiling [on how good I can be]. I never think that way. I never ever did that in life, period. So there’s always something bigger, and I genuinely believe that.”
ATP Marseille: Felix Auger-Aliassime Saves 3 MP, Beats Pierre-Hugues Herbert – ATP Tour
#NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime saved three match points on Thursday, battling through a slew of tweeners and screaming forehands to overcome Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-0, 6-7(6), 7-6(9) in a two-hour, 40-minute thriller at the Open 13 Provence that the players nor fans watching will soon forget.
The seventh seed steadied himself well after letting slip one match point in the second-set tie-break, eventually triumphing on his sixth match point to reach the quarter-finals in Marseille. Auger-Aliassime, who lost to Herbert in straight sets two weeks ago in Montpellier, struck 16 aces and won 85 per cent of his first-serve points as he continues his pursuit of a maiden ATP Tour title.
The 19-year-old Canadian has now saved multiple match points in his first two matches at this indoor ATP 250 event, erasing two of them in his first-round victory against Italian Stefano Travaglia. Auger-Aliassime will next play Belarusian Egor Gerasimov, who upset third seed David Goffin.
For a moment, it seemed destiny was on Herbert’s side. The Frenchman not only hit a tweener lob on set point in the second set to force a decider, but he struck another clutch tweener to help escape pressure on serve deep in the third set.
Then at 6/6 in the ensuing tie-break, Auger-Aliassime played a perfect point and crushed an overhead into the open court. But on the full stretch, Herbert blasted a forehand pass down the line that the diving Canadian couldn’t handle, giving him a match point on his own serve. The Frenchman was unable to muster the courageous tennis he played under pressure during the rest of the match, pushing a backhand into the net.
On the other two match points Auger-Aliassime faced — at 5/6 and 7/8 in the same tie-break — the teen showed no fear, dictating with his forehand and then blasting an unreturned serve down the T. Felix finished off his victory with an ace out wide, letting out a roar of “Allez!”
It is a key week for the Canadian, who last year reached his first ATP Tour final in Rio de Janeiro as the World No. 104. He has since reached three additional tour-level championship matches, including one last week in Rotterdam (0-4).
Auger-Aliassime’s next opponent, Gerasimov, is a qualifier who ousted Goffin 6-4, 7-6(5). Goffin battled hard, getting back on serve in the second set after the Belarusian served for the match.
But the in-form World No. 72 played too well from the baseline, triumphing after one hour and 33 minutes behind three breaks of serve. Gerasimov reached his first ATP Tour final earlier this year in Pune.
Did You Know?
With Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil also into the last eight in Marseille, it is the first time three Canadians have reached the quarter-finals in an ATP Tour event since 1990 Rio de Janeiro where Martin Laurendeau (QF), Andrew Sznajder (Finalist) and Martin Wostenholme (SF) did it.
2021 Scotties tickets on sale on Friday – Tbnewswatch.com
THUNDER BAY – As Krista McCarville and company inch their way toward a spot in the championship round at the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Heats, tickets for the 2021 event in Thunder Bay are about to go on sale.
Curling Canada on Wednesday announced the first 2,000 ticket packages will be available through a pre-sale, for $395 plus fees, starting on Friday morning at 10 a.m.
A limited number of VIP tickets, priced at $429, will also be up for grabs.
Diane Imrie, vice-chair of the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts said the announcement suddenly makes things real.
“My phone has been blowing up, my email has been blowing up because pre-sale tickets went on sale today,” said Imrie. “Curling Canada sent out the notification to people and people are buying their tickets and are getting ready for the 2021 Scotties.
“And it’s perfect timing because Krista is doing great out in Moose Jaw, so we’re hoping she’ll do exactly the same next year here in Thunder Bay.”
For now, only full week packages will be made available.
A block of weekend single-day tickets are expected to be put on sale in October.
“These are full-event packages right now and it’s a great deal, if you think about all those games you get to see for a great price,” Imrie said, “It’s tickets for everything.”
Kent Maarup, vice-chair facilities for next year’s event, said it’s a great day for curling.
He cautioned the public not to wait too long, because the next block of tickets won’t be nearly as large is this one.
“We have to keep so many for media and also for families and everybody else. So they hold off a good 500 tickets just for that,” Maarup said.
Tickets will be available online and at the Fort William Gardens box office as well. Tickets can also be ordered by phone at 625-2929. Tickets prices are subject to standard facility and ticket service fees.
Imrie said she expects information on volunteers will be made public in the coming weeks, but encouraged anyone interested to sign up as soon as possible at that time as the opportunities will be open to curling fans across the country.
Trade Buzz: Tatar trying to ignore rumors, help Canadiens – NHL.com
Welcome to the NHL Trade Buzz. There are four days remaining until the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline on Monday at 3 p.m. ET, and NHL.com has all the important news, rumblings and analysis heading toward the deadline.
Here’s a look around the League at the latest deadline doings:
Tomas Tatar is trying to focus on helping the Montreal Canadiens win, and the forward and isn’t worrying about trade rumors involving him.
“I’m trying to block these things out, but obviously we wanted to be in a better spot than we are,” Tatar said after the Canadiens morning skate at Capital One Arena, where they will play the Washington Capitals on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBCSWA, TSN2, RDS, NHL.TV). “But you just have to go out and play and battle, battle for the logo.”
The 29-year-old is signed through the 2020-21 season, but with the Canadiens eight points behind the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division, they appear to be looking toward the future. Montreal traded defenseman Marco Scandella to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday for a second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Tatar leads the Canadiens with 54 points (21 goals, 33 assists) in 62 games and would be a valuable addition for a contender looking for more than a rental player.
“To be honest, I don’t really want [Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin] to come down and talk to me,” Tatar said. “I’m trying to play my game and focus on my team, and if something happens, that’s just the way the business works.”
Tatar has been in this situation before, getting traded by the Detroit Red Wings to the Vegas Golden Knights prior to the 2018 trade deadline.
“I kind of gained experience from that first trade,” he said. “I’m not too worried now. It’s just part of the business. The first one kind of teaches you how things are. Now I’m just thinking it would be part of the business. Anything can happen obviously. No one’s really safe, I want to say, and it always depends on the offer and what the GM or the organization decides to do in a certain moment.”
General manager Joe Sakic said he’s known for about a month what players the Avalanche would like to add to their roster and is taking a practical, open-minded approach to the deadline.
“We know the guys we think would be a good fit to our team,” Sakic said Wednesday. “If it works out, great. There’s obviously things we’re not willing to move, but if there’s a deal that makes sense for us we’d like to do it.
“I’d rather not [trade a first-round pick], but I won’t rule anything out. It all depends on what packages are out there. To be honest with you, I prefer a hockey trade rather than going in the rental market. We’re going to be open to the rental market as well. What’s the cost going to be? I’m not here just looking short term; I’m paid to look after the big picture.”
One area the Avalanche would like to upgrade is their goalie depth. Philipp Grubauer is out indefinitely because of a lower-body injury sustained during the third period of the 2020 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series game against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. Hunter Miska, who has one game of NHL experience, was recalled from Colorado of the American Hockey League on Sunday to back up Pavel Francouz, who is in his first full NHL season.
“We’re going to pursue, see if we can add a depth goalie for us,” Sakic said. “We’ll see where that goes. We’ve had injuries in that department, not only here but with [AHL Colorado], so ultimately we’d like to see if we can add a depth goalie just for protection.”
New Jersey Devils
Goalie Louis Domingue won’t play against the San Jose Sharks at Prudential Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, NBCSCA, NHL.TV) for precautionary reasons that aren’t connected to an injury.
“Precautionary reasons and for potentially a roster move,” coach Alain Nasreddine said.
The Devils did the same thing with forward Blake Coleman prior to trading him to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday.
Domingue is 3-8-2 with a 3.79 goals-against average and .882 save percentage in 16 games this season but has 138 games of NHL experience and was the backup to Andrei Vasilevskiy when the Tampa Bay Lightning reached the Eastern Conference Final in 2018.
Veteran goalie Cory Schneider was recalled from Binghamton of the American Hockey League to back up Mackenzie Blackwood on Thursday.
How active the Flames are before the deadline could be determined by the health of defensemen Mark Giordano and Travis Hamonic.
Giordano has been out since Feb. 4 with a hamstring injury but could play during the Flames’ five-game road trip, which starts Sunday. Hamonic is week to week with an upper-body injury sustained Feb. 8 but is expected to play again this season.
“We’re going to get both guys back, it’s just when,” Flames general manager Brad Treliving said Wednesday. “Does it affect what we’re doing the next couple days? Yes and no would be the best way to describe it. We’re looking to see if there’s ways we can help ourselves in a way that makes sense. Chasing it with high prices for rental players, I don’t know if that’s a direction that we’re in favor of. But if there’s ways to help us we want to do it. Next few days will determine that.”
In addition to adding on defense, right wing has been an issue of need. With Derek Ryan injured, the Flames’ only right-shot forwards are Elias Lindholm and Buddy Robinson, who has played five games this season.
“When Elias Lindholm plays right wing you have more depth there than when he plays center,” Treliving said. “You focus on the last 25 games you have left but you’re looking long term and it’s a position we need to upgrade moving forward. Whether we’re able to do that between now and Monday, we’ll see.
“But we’ll do what we always do, which is always try to be real aggressive in seeing what’s available, seeing what those prices are and if they make sense. And if we can get something done that makes sense we will, and if we can’t then we won’t.”
Erik Gustafsson would like to remain with the Blackhawks but the defenseman is prepared for anything that may happen.
“I don’t know if it’s nerve-wracking or something like that,” he said Thursday. “Whatever happens, happens. I want to stay here. But we’ll see what happens.
“I kind of try not to look at the phone or hear anything on the TV or radio or anything, but it’s hard. … It’s something I can’t control. Like I said before, I want to stay in Chicago. I like it here.”
Gustafsson leads Blackhawks defensemen with 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) in 59 games and can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
NHL.com staff writers Tom Gulitti and Tracey Myers and independent correspondent Rick Sadowski contributed to this report
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