TORONTO – You can say this about Gary Trent Jr., the young man and newest member of the Toronto Raptors knows how to make an entrance.
The third-year guard-forward was in his hotel room taking a pre-game nap when he got the call from his agent, Rich Paul, shortly before Thursday afternoon’s NBA trade deadline. He was on the move.
The Portland Trail Blazers, his now former team, were in Miami getting ready to take on the Heat. So, fortunately, Trent Jr. didn’t have to travel very far to join his new club.
He arrived in Tampa around 11:30 p.m. ET, went for a midnight workout and completed his physical Friday morning, clearing the way for him to make his Raptors debut later that evening.
Showing up to Amalie Arena ahead of Toronto’s game against the Phoenix Suns, Trent Jr. was decked out in OVO gear. The red camo outfit came from his personal collection, in case you were wondering – it wasn’t a welcome gift from the team or anything like that. Savvy wardrobe choice from the 22-year-old and a good lesson for anybody that’s starting a new job. Want to impress your employer on the first day? Repping the global ambassador’s brand certainly doesn’t hurt.
He didn’t need to wear Drake’s shirt to make a strong first impression, though. As Blazers fans know and Raptors fans will learn quickly, if they haven’t already, Trent Jr. is easy to root for.
“The sky is the limit,” he said, speaking on the fit with his new team. “I’m gonna come in everyday and work as hard as I can…. Just coming in, diving in head first, being a sponge, trying to learn as much as I can, gel with everybody, get to it, lock in, get some wins and play the game of basketball like we all know how to do.”
Like Norman Powell, who went to Portland in the deal that sent him and veteran wing Rodney Hood to the Raptors, Trent Jr. was a second-round pick. As a rookie in 2018-19, he mostly watched from the bench, also spending some time in the G League.
He really started to emerge towards the end of his sophomore campaign, helping the Blazers make a playoff push during last year’s restart in Orlando. He was one of the league’s standouts in the bubble, and it’s carried over into this season – averaging 15.0 points in 41 games with Portland. Now, he’s hoping to take the next step in Toronto’s well-regarded developmental system – one that has produced the likes of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and, of course, Powell.
Even without the benefit of a practice session after just arriving and meeting his new teammates a few hours earlier, Trent Jr. showed what he could do in his Raptors debut – a 104-100 loss to the Suns.
He knocked down his first shot – a 19-foot jumper off a curl and assisted by Kyle Lowry. A few minutes later, he stripped the ball from all-star Devin Booker – a good way to make friends on a team that includes a couple handsy defenders in VanVleet and Anunoby. Later, Siakam found him on a back cut to the rim for a layup. The only thing he didn’t do, ironically, was hit a three, missing all five of his attempts – he’s shooting 41 per cent from long range over the past two years.
“I thought he was good,” Nick Nurse said of Trent Jr., who scored eight points on 4-of-11 shooting in his first game. “Obviously it’s difficult to come in, fly in at night and join a team and play, and play against one of the best teams in the league. I thought he was good, I liked his aggression on defence most of all. He’ll learn what we’re doing, but I thought he had some really good possessions defensively. He was aggressive and executed the stuff we asked him to execute at a super high level, so that’s a great thing to see. And we know he can shoot, we know he can score.”
Trent Jr. is nowhere near the offensive player that Powell is, at least not at this stage of his career, but that’s OK – Powell is almost six years his senior and, to his credit, has blossomed into one of the league’s most efficient scorers at his position. The Raptors know they were giving something up on that end of the floor – Powell was third on the team in points per contest. That’s not why they made the trade.
More than anything else, it was a business move. It was about asset management – swapping a player that was about to become really expensive and difficult to keep for one that’s younger and cheaper (Trent Jr. will be a restricted free agent this summer and should cost considerably less to retain than an unrestricted Powell would have), who they like and see fitting into their long-term plans. That he projects as a better defender than Powell, and may already be, has a lot to do with the fit.
“Gary’s a really tremendous young player,” said Lowry. “He can shoot the ball, he’s super tough, plays defence, defensive-minded, hard-nosed, his father played in the league. I think he’s got a really good upside.”
After a two and a half year apprenticeship under one of the best guards in the association, Damian Lillard, Trent Jr. gets to learn from another veteran at the position – one of the benefits of opting not to trade Lowry ahead of Thursday’s deadline.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to continue helping him grow,” Lowry said. “He’s 22 years old, he’s still getting his feet wet in this league and he’s going to continue to get better. My job is to try to help him kind of blend in and mesh with the team really quick. You know we got great guys in this locker room, myself, Freddy, and we want to help speed him up and keep him going.”
He’s not lacking for mentors, either. His father, Gary Trent Sr. played in the league for nine seasons. Trent Jr. is literally walking in his footsteps.
Trent Sr. was acquired in the Raptors’ first-ever blockbuster trade – the deal that sent disgruntled star Damon Stoudamire to Portland and brought fan favourite Alvin Williams to Toronto in 1998. Less than a year later, Trent Jr. was born. Twenty-two years after that, he was traded to the Raptors – also from Portland, and also 41 games into his third NBA season. His dad was actually the one to point that out to him.
“It’s surreal,” said Trent Jr., who chose to wear 33 on his jersey, the same number his father wore with the Raptors more than two decades prior. “It’s wild, stuff you can’t put into words. It almost seems like it was written already in a sense, like it was destined to happen, it was supposed to happen. It’s crazy.”
Trent Sr. only played in 13 games with the Raptors before leaving for Dallas as a free agent following that 1998-99 campaign. The hope is that his son’s tenure will be longer and more memorable. If he’s going to carve out a legacy and endear himself to the fan base – not unlike Powell before him – well, he’s off to a pretty good start.
“[My father] gave me a lot of great stories just talking about the city [of Toronto] itself,” said Trent Jr. “He says it’s beautiful, it’s one of the most international cities in the world, the food is amazing, the vibe is amazing, the fans are amazing. So I’ve heard nothing but positive things about it. I’m so glad, so fortunate, so blessed to have the opportunity to play for this organization.”
Olympics-U.S. women to face Australia in women’s football at Tokyo Games
(Reuters) – The U.S. women’s national team will face Australia, Sweden and New Zealand at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, while in the men’s competition 2016 winners Brazil will take on Germany following the group stage draw on Wednesday.
The American women’s team are the reigning world champions and four-time winners of the Olympic tournament and will start as favourites in Tokyo, with Rio 2016 winners Germany failing to qualify.
Team GB women have drawn 2016 bronze medallists Canada, Chile and hosts Japan. Making only their second Olympic tournament appearance, Team GB will be led by England’s interim coach Hege Riise.
On the men’s side, Brazil will take on Germany, Ivory Coast and Saudi Arabia.
Mexico, the 2012 gold medallists, were pitted against hosts Japan, South Africa and France.
The men’s team are usually restricted to selecting players under the age of 23, with just three overage players allowed.
However, the age bracket has been raised for the Tokyo Games in line with the one-year postponement of the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)
Rafael Nadal rallies from set down to advance in Barcelona
Top seed Rafael Nadal rallied from a set back to beat Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 on Wednesday in the second round at the Barcelona Open in Spain.
Nadal lost serve in the opening game of the match and wasn’t able to break Ivashka’s serve throughout the first set. He won just 70.6 percent of points on his first serve, was broken twice and had two double faults in an uncharacteristically poor showing on service in the opening set.
By the second set, he had righted his serve, winning 86.7 percent of points on his first serve in the second set and 83.3 percent in the third. He didn’t face a break point in either set.
In other action, No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, No. 3 Andrey Rublev of Russia, No. 4 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, No. 6 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain and No. 10 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada were among those advancing.
No. 9 Fabio Fognini of Italy defaulted for verbal abuse. He was losing 6-0, 4-4 to Zapata Miralles of Spain when the line judge reported him for swearing after a foot fault. He had been warned earlier in the match
Top seed and home-country favorite Novak Djokovic needed just 68 minutes to top South Korean Soon-woo Kwon 6-1, 6-3 and advance to the quarterfinals in Belgrade, Serbia.
Djokovic capitalized on five of his eight service break opportunities in the win. In the next round, he’ll meet fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic, the eighth seed, who needed three sets to oust Arthur Rinderknech of France 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Also advancing was the No. 2 seed, Matteo Berrettini, who defeated fellow Italian Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-3. Fifth seed Filip Krajinovic beat Nikola Milojevic 6-1, 6-1 in an all-Serb match.
(Field Level Media)
Ice hockey-Women’s world championships cancelled due to COVID-19
(Reuters) -The women’s ice hockey world championships set to be played in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia have been cancelled because of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Canada, Hockey Canada said on Wednesday.
The announcement came one day before the 10 teams were to arrive to begin their quarantine ahead of the May 6-16 tournament.
“This is very disappointing news to receive with just a few weeks until the tournament was to begin,” said International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel in a statement.
“We strongly believe that we had the adequate safety measures in place. In the end, we must accept the decision of the government.”
The IIHF and Hockey Canada were informed by the Nova Scotia provincial government on Wednesday that the 10-country tournament could not go ahead due to safety concerns associated with COVID-19.
Still the news came as a shock after Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer had 24 hours earlier given the event the thumbs- up.
“At five o’clock this morning we were full go and at 7:30 am we were not,” explained Hockey Canada chief executive officer Tom Renney. “That is the way the world is right now and there is only so much we can control.
“At the end of the day there is a bigger game than the one we play here and quite honestly it is about the safety of the general public.”
The cancellation was another blow for the women’s game that has endured a number of recent setbacks, including the folding of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
It was also the second consecutive year the Nova Scotia world championships have been stopped by COVID-19.
“Definitely, a little bit of disbelief, a little shock, a lot of emotion,” said Canadian coach Gina Kingsbury, who pulled some players off the ice to deliver the bad news. “This is a group that has been through a lot this past year and two years so they are definitely familiar with disappointing news.”
Both the IIHF and Hockey Canada indicated they plan to play the world championships this year, possibly this summer, in Canada.
“Our intention, and that of the IIHF, is to reconnect with this event as a world championship in 2021 in Canada,” said Renney. “That’s our number one objective. We have every desire to hold this event in Canada.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond)
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