For the first time in Raptors history, the team was actually in the driver’s seat as a potential seller at the NBA trade deadline. Yes, Toronto, as helmed by Masai Ujiri, has pulled off deadline deals before — remember Serge Ibaka, PJ Tucker, and Marc Gasol, for example — but they haven’t quite been in control like the were this past Thursday. The closest we can even come is back in 1998 when the Raptors made the disastrous sell-now Damon Stoudamire trade a week before the deadline. That day was not a good one for Toronto.
This made for a highly emotional afternoon. Instead of waiting to see if the Raptors would make a deal to acquire some missing piece to help get them to a championship, we were waiting to see if some other contending team would pay the price to acquire Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell. That Toronto moved Norm was perhaps not entirely a surprise — that they held onto Lowry, meanwhile, ended up disrupting a few narratives involving some of the league’s best teams. In true Lowry fashion, his staying with Toronto also upended the story of his presumptive last game on Wednesday night, a fun win that ended the team’s crushing nine-game losing streak (and had Lowry posting a career-best +42). What a turn.
But before really unpacking the implications of the non-Lowry trade, let’s review the moves the Raptors did make and assign some grades to the deals. Of the three trades Toronto did pull-off, none of them are of the Earth-shattering, all-in variety (like 2019’s Gasol trade), but they do position the Raptors once again to be right where they like to be: in control.
Norman Powell Traded to the Portland Trail Blazers: B+
Return: Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood
I can’t give this one an A-grade only because of my emotional connection to Powell. He was the second-longest tenured Raptor (behind Lowry), and perhaps the first real development success story of the Ujiri era. Other Raptors have had bigger roles and made a bigger impact in their time in Toronto, but Powell was essentially a flyer of a player — the 46th pick in an NBA Draft doesn’t often hold much value — and worked his way into becoming a near-20-point scorer for one of the better franchises in the league.
This is before we get into all the times Powell essentially saved the Raptors’ dang season via some wild playoff heroics. We’ll never forget the Game 5 steal on Indiana’s Paul George in the 2016 post-season; we can’t underrate Powell’s insertion into the starting lineup as the turning point against the Bucks in 2017; and, sure, when Norm finally woke up in the 2020 Bubble playoffs for a late three-point play on Marcus Smart in that all-timer Game 6 against Boston, it was easy to remember why we all loved having Powell around. He could be all over the place at times, but when he came through, Powell was electric for Toronto.
So did the Raptors “win” this trade? As always with the best trades, yes and no. Right now, the Blazers win because they definitely got the best player in the deal. The almost-28-year-old Norm will slot right into place as Portland’s weak-side attacker and shooter and is, right now, better than both Trent Jr. and Hood at both of those elements of the game. (It’s very safe to say Powell will stay better than Hood too.) The Blazers need help to get over the hump in the playoffs, and Powell can help them do that.
At the same time, the Raptors win by looping back to essentially a younger version of Powell, the 22-year-old Trent Jr. — in his third year as a 37th pick in the 2018 Draft — who operates as roughly the same calibre of shooter, possesses some solid defensive utility, and, as per Ujiri, is a player with “really, really good upside.” On top of that, the Raptors can now conceivably get in on the Trent Jr. restricted free agent market this summer, which looks to be far-reduced from the Powell unrestricted free agent market, which may go as high as $20 million per season. That’s awesome for Norm, as he’s definitely earned it, but it’s also maybe something to which the Raptors did not want to commit.
Meanwhile, after injuring his Achilles back in December 2020, Hood has not been the player he was — which was, essentially, another Powell-type, a two-guard who can shoot threes and get up and down the court. The Raptors now have him under contract for the rest of this season and a non-guaranteed second year in 2021-22 at around $10 million per. There’s a theme emerging here: the Raptors got two shooting guards for one, and can now recalibrate their options from a place of strength. It’s a shame we won’t get to watch Powell anymore as a Raptor — and it sucks we didn’t get to see him go all-out in Toronto this season — but sometimes that really is the business.
Matt Thomas Traded to the Utah Jazz: A-
Return: 2021 second-round pick (from the Warriors)
Despite the hype (thanks almost entirely to our friend Alex “Steven Lebron” Wong), the Matt Thomas experiment never quite took off in Toronto. There were a few games there when it looked like Thomas was about to break-out as the super-shooter and modest play-maker the Raptors needed off the bench — and we’ll always have this highlight — but then he’d get deked out of his shoes and we’d remember why Thomas was on the bench in the first place. Maybe it was just coach Nick Nurse’s aggressive defensive schemes, but it became clearer as this season progressed that Thomas couldn’t quite keep up with the Raptors’ program. Maybe he’ll get a shot in Utah, or maybe he’ll just be another deep-bench piece for them too.
Either way, the Raptors were clearly not going to re-sign Thomas for 2021-22, so getting any sort of draft pick compensation for him is better than nothing. In this case, per Blake Murphy’s sources, the pick is apparently coming from the Warriors, which means it could be in the mid-40s of the 2021 NBA Draft. That’s not a bad return for a player the Raptors signed out of Spain back in the post-championship summer of 2019.
Terence Davis Traded to the Sacramento Kings: A+
Return: 2021 second-round pick (from the Grizzlies)
Thus ends the disappointing dance we’ve been doing around Davis on the Raptors this entire season. After his stunning Summer League appearance in 2020 and his explosive moments last season (capped by his earning a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team), our collective excitement around Davis has soured for more than one reason.
Since I’ve burned through any further desire to comment on him, I’ll just add: Davis was not going to be re-signed by the Raptors — and just getting him off the team is a good enough reason to celebrate.
Kyle Lowry Not Traded to the Sixers/Heat/Lakers: A+
Look, I understand the NBA is a business. And I understand that it’s perhaps strange for me to applaud the Raptors on their trade of Norm for business reasons while cheering for as little as 28 more games of Lowry. But also, everyone needs to understand something else: the Raptors absolutely held the entire league hostage at this trade deadline. They basically said, if your deal pleases us, we’ll make it; if it doesn’t, we can hold onto Lowry for now — and what’s more, we like our chances to maybe bring him back in 2021-22. Will the Raptors actually re-sign and retain Lowry for next season? Who knows. Yet now that option exists.
Trading Lowry was always only ever going to net the Raptors some potential — not a star player who could remake their fortunes overnight. Maybe someone like Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, or Talen Horton-Tucker is going to become an All-Star-level player, but the odds of that are not necessarily in favour of the Raptors. Or to put it another way, the odds are just as good the Raptors could acquire someone else (like Trent Jr., or some other future draft pick) who could be as good as any of those aforementioned players. Trading the greatest Raptor of all time, even if he was hellbent on leaving this summer, for that kind of return just never quite made sense — even with the Raptors at 1-9 over their last ten games.
Yes, the Raptors have historically been seen as “losers” when it comes to star players and their eventual departures. We’ve lived through the tenures of Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and Chris Bosh after all. And I get why the idea of Lowry walking for “nothing” this summer makes it feel like the Raptors are now setting themselves up to fail. Please know I get that.
But consider it this way: nothing can happen with Lowry now that would set the Raptors back — not on the court, not on the salary cap sheet, and not in the hearts and minds of fans. Lowry can leave, and the team is still set up for the future. He could re-sign, and they can still compete. He could even participate in a sign-and-trade and the Raptors could then acquire the Maxeys and Thybulles of the world this summer. Despite the variables beyond their control, the Raptors are still in the driver’s seat as they head into their future.
And at this point, if Lowry is happy playing with the Raptors — even for just 28 more games — we should be happy to have him for as long as it lasts.
Canadian medal hopefuls Humana-Paredes, Pavan start beach volleyball with easy win – CBC.ca
Under a scorching sun, brilliant blue sky and temperatures that soared above 38 degrees Celsius at the Shiokaze Park in Tokyo, Canada’s dynamic beach volleyball duo of Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes wasted no time taking it to their Dutch opponents.
The No. 1-ranked and defending world champions took a few minutes to get their footing in the golden sand at the venue, but when they did, they were a force to be reckoned with.
Pavan and Humana-Paredes defeated the Netherlands duo of Katja Stam and Raisa School in straight sets (21-16, 21-14) on Saturday to open their Olympics.
“I think today we made it clear that everything we’ve been working on has paid off,” Pavan said after the victory. “The three times we’ve played that team it’s gone down to the wire. Today we took care of it.”
She pumped her fist in the air before sharing a high-five with Humana-Paredes.
“Regardless of the empty stadium I was shaking like a leaf,” Humana-Paredes said. “I was so nervous and so excited and put on a brave face.”
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The team talked about needing to feed off one another’s energy on the court because they normally thrive on the crowd. So any chance they get to ignite one another here at the Olympics, they take full advantage of it.
Thousands of blue seats around the venue sat empty because of COVID restrictions — a similar scene at every Olympic venue in Tokyo, still in a state of emergency.
WATCH | Pavan, Humana-Paredes win opener in straight sets:
The Canadians started to pull away slowly from the Dutch. Pavan’s 6-foot-5 frame was a huge advantage at the net, blocking another Dutch smash to make the score 14-10.
The Dutch were visibly frustrated by Pavan’s daunting presence at the net and started making unforced errors. The Canadian duo then cruised to a 21-16 opening-set victory.
“We came out a little slow just getting used to the environment, nerves, excitement, everything. We settled in pretty quickly,” Pavan said.
The Dutch weren’t about to go away too easily in the second set, going shot for shot with the Canadians. Canada mounted a 12-9 lead before a technical timeout for crews to rake the sand court.
Humana-Paredes then took her defensive game to a different level and at times was seemingly all over the court, digging up balls that seemed destined to touch sand.
The experience, poise and power of the Canadians proved to be too much for the Dutch duo. Pavan and Humana-Paredes finished off the match winning the second set, 21-14.
“Our game plan was on point. We executed our serving game very well and our defensive system. We were very prepared,” Pavan said.
She finished with four block points and 11 attack points.
One of the key strengths to Humana-Paredes and Pavan’s game is their ability to communicate. Because of the silent venue their strategy could be heard very clearly throughout the venue. They were constantly talking to one another and sharing information to each other and it slowly wore down the Dutch.
WATCH | Pavan, Humana-Paredes headed for history:
“That’s something we’ve been working on and it’s a cornerstone of our team,” Humana-Paredes said. “Our communication on and off the court, we put so much work into that. Communication is what we always come back to.”
Pavan and Humana-Paredes now take on Germany in their second match of the tournament in Pool A.
There are 24 teams competing at the women’s beach volleyball tournament, including another Canadian duo made up of Heather Barnsley and Brandie Wilkerson. They play China in their first game on Saturday night in Tokyo.
There are six groups made up of four teams. The top two teams from each group advance, with four more joining them in the round of 16. Then that gets trimmed down to eight teams, four teams and then the gold medal game.
That’s the game Pavan and Humana-Paredes are targeting and are off to a perfect start.
“It’s such an honour to be here and surreal. It’s something I’ve dreamt of since I was a little girl. I just want to soak it all in.”
Coyotes trade Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Conor Garland to Canucks – Arizona Sports
Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 of the Arizona Coyotes during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at Gila River Arena on October 30, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Canadiens defeated the Coyotes 4-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Arizona Coyotes traded captain and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to the Vancouver Canucks, as well as forward Conor Garland, the team announced Friday.
Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro first reported talks of the deal.
In return, the Coyotes will get forwards Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel and the 9th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft that was used to select Dylan Guenther. Arizona also receives a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 seventh-round selection.
“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Oliver for everything that he has done for the Coyotes the past 10 years,” Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong said in a press release. “He is a tremendous player and person and we wish him and Conor the best of luck in the future.
“We are very pleased to acquire the ninth overall draft choice in this year’s NHL Draft along with Loui, Antoine and Jay. Loui and Jay are both Stanley Cup champions and along with Antoine, they are all solid veterans who will provide us with great leadership and experience.”
Ekman-Larsson, 30, has spent the entirety of his NHL career with the Coyotes after being selected sixth overall in the 2009 NHL Draft. The defenseman has 128 goals and 260 points over his Arizona career, for a total of 388 points.
Last season, Ekman-Larsson recorded three goals and 21 assists in 46 games. He has been the captain of the team for the last three seasons.
The Coyotes signed Ekman-Larsson to an eight-year, $66 million extension in the summer of 2018, a deal that has six more seasons left on it for $8.25 million each year. According to Gambadoro, Arizona will pay for roughly $1.2 million of that salary each of the next six years.
The 25-year-old Garland has been one of the Coyotes’ primary goal scorers in the previous two seasons. The winger had a team-high 22 goals in the 2019-20 season and 12 last season.
Garland is a restricted free agent this offseason.
Beagle, 35, had five points in 30 games last season while the 31-year-old Roussel contributed four points in 35 games. Lastly, the 36-year-old Eriksson played in only seven games.
Roussel is on an expiring deal worth $3 million next year, as are Beagle ($3 million) and Eriksson ($6 million).
The 2021 NHL Draft takes place on Friday.
Sabres select Owen Power with No. 1 pick in 2021 NHL Draft – Sportsnet.ca
The NHL draft turned Michigan maize and blue Friday night. And there’s a Hughes sibling reunion set to happen in New Jersey.
The Buffalo Sabres opened the draft by selecting Wolverines defenceman Owen Power with the top pick, and were immediately followed by the expansion Seattle Kraken choosing Michigan centre Matthew Beniers at No. 2. It marked the first time since 1969 that teammates went with the first two selections.
Three picks later, the Wolverines became college hockey’s first program to have three teammates go in the first round after the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Michigan winger Kent Johnson fifth.
“Extremely excited for Owen, Matty and their families. Its’ already a great night for Michigan Hockey. Go Blue,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson texted to The Associated Press after the Kraken made their selection.
That’s not all, however. Luke Hughes, who is committed to playing at Michigan, was chosen fourth overall by the the Devils, where the defenceman is united with brother Jack, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft.
Hughes watched the draft on his family’s living room couch with both of his NHL-playing brothers, rounded out by Quinn, who was selected seventh overall by Vancouver in 2018. Jack Hughes immediately jumped up and began hugging Luke upon hearing Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald announce the pick.
Ontario junior centre Mason McTavish was the only player without Michigan ties to round out the top five, after he was selected third overall by Anahiem.
The draft was held remotely for a second consecutive year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with commissioner Gary Bettman hosting the draft in New Jersey, where he introduced teams to make their selections from their home arenas.
On a day the Sabres traded Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers, general manager Kevyn Adams continued his offseason bid to overhaul a struggling franchise by choosing the stalwart defenceman’s heir apparent. Power is listed at six-foot-six and 213 pounds and was the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau’s top-ranked North American prospect. After scoring three goals and adding 13 assists in 26 games during his freshman season at Michigan, the 18-year-old Power cemented his draft stock by helping Canada win the world hockey championships.
From Mississauga, Ontario, Power is leaning toward returning to school for his sophomore season, something Adams has said would not play a factor into his selection.
“Not thinking about it too much right now, trying to enjoy the night. That’s something I’ll worry about later,” Power said of his future, while surrounded by his family and friends in his backyard.
As for a message to Sabres fans, he said: “I’m super excited to be part of the franchise and ready to get going.”
Power was the third player drafted first directly out of college, joining Michigan State forward Joe Murphy in 1986 and Boston University goalie Rick DiPietro in 2000. And he became the 16th defenceman to go No. 1 since 1970, and first since the Sabres chose Rasmus Dahlin at No. 1 in 2018.
Power and Dahlin have similar two-way, play-making skills, and will have the opportunity to form the backbone of a retooled defensive unit for years to come.
Beniers was ranked sixth overall among North American prospects. He had 14 goals and 24 points in 24 games for the Wolverines.
In 1969, Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif were Montreal Junior Canadiens teammates, who were selected with the first two picks by Montreal. In 1963, Garry Monahan and St. Michael’s Juveniles teammate Peter Mahovlich were selected first and second.
The Sabres made a splash earlier by adding a second first-round pick, 14th overall, and defenceman Robert Hagg in dealing Ristolainen to Philadelphia.
The trade is part of Adams’ bid to rebuild through youth after Buffalo finished last in the overall standings for a fourth time in eight seasons and extended its playoff drought to an NHL record-matching 10th year.
The acquired pick from Philadelphia is actually 13th in the draft order after the NHL stripped the Arizona Coyotes of their first-round pick, 11th overall, for testing players in violation of league’s combine policy.
The Coyotes, however, moved back into the first round by acquiring the Canucks’ pick, ninth overall, in a five-player trade that sent Arizona captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson to Vancouver earlier in the day.
The first European players selected were from Sweden in back to back selections. Defenceman Simon Edvinsson went sixth to the Detroit Red Wings, followed by under-sized forward William Eklund, who was chosen seventh by the San Jose Sharks.
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