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.
Boston Bruins Add Offense With Solid Taylor Hall Trade – Boston Hockey Now
The Boston Bruins clearly understood they had serious deficiencies on their NHL roster this season and credit them for going and doing something about it.
The B’s finished off their Sunday night fireworks ahead of the NHL trade deadline by sending a second round pick and Anders Bjork to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for top-6 winger Taylor Hall and bottom-6 forward Curtis Lazar. TSN’s Darren Dreger, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and ESPN’s John Buccigross were the first to report about the completed deal between the Bruins and Buffalo Sabres in the hours following the B’s getting stomped by the Washington Capitals, 8-1, at TD Garden.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) April 12, 2021
The Buffalo Sabres retained half of the $8 million salary that Hall signed for prior to the start of the 2021 hockey season.
After acquiring Hall @ 50% & Lazar for Bjork, the #NHLBruins added $772K Cap Hit for remainder of year.
They have $24K of Projected Cap Space; $100K Annual Cap Hit that can be added, w/ 24 Active on Roster. Sending players to taxi would create more room.https://t.co/2o0hsHzUIy https://t.co/rXiRKKk3lt pic.twitter.com/I7ZRUSmSQp
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) April 12, 2021
The 29-year-old Hall is having a terrible season in Buffalo with just two goals and 19 points in 37 games along with a minus-21 rating after he chose to sign a one-year deal with the Sabres during the offseason. But he brings legitimate offensive talent as a former No. 1 overall pick and Hart Trophy winner to a Boston Bruins team that’s ranked in the bottom third of the NHL offensively all season.
The Bruins were one of the suitors for Hall prior to him choosing the Sabres months ago, and now they get him for a deep discount while keeping their own first round picks after making their deadline deals.
Holding onto their own first round pick was a priority for Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney after spending first rounders at the deadline in two of the last three deadlines in trades for damaged goods Rick Nash and Ondrej Kase.
The 26-year-old Lazar has five goals and 11 points in 33 games as a bottom-6 forward for the Sabres this season and is signed for $800,000 for next season. It seemed clear that something was going on with the 24-year-old Anders Bjork over the last couple of weeks as he was a healthy scratch for five straight games, including Sunday night against Washington, and heads to Buffalo hoping to further develop a game built on speed and skill level that hasn’t translated into offense as of yet.
Hall should fit right into the top-6 with the Bruins as a skilled winger for playmaking center David Krejci, but it remains to be seen how he’s going to fit as another left winger on a team with Nick Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk.
Either Ritchie or DeBrusk is going to have to play the off wing with a Krejci/Hall combo, but that’s a problem that Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will gladly figure out after being forced to piece together lineups all season due to injuries and offensive inconsistency. With the acquisition of Hall, Lazar and left-handed defenseman Mike Reilly on Sunday night, it would appear the Boston Bruins are largely done with deals ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.
Interestingly enough, the Boston Bruins are set to play the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca
It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.
“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.
It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.
But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.
It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.
“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”
Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.
Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.
“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”
But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.
When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.
Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.
“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.
Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?
It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.
“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.
“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”
It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.
But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.
You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.
What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.
“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?
“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”
Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.
Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics
(Reuters) – Mike Scioscia, who won World Series both as a player and manager, was named manager of the U.S. men’s national baseball team on Tuesday, as they seek a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.
After 19 seasons as manager of the Anaheim Angels, guiding them to their only World Series win in 2002, Scioscia will make his international coaching debut in June when the United States hosts the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida.
For the tournament the U.S. will be grouped with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in Pool A while Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela will make up Pool B.
The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the country with the best overall record will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic tournament.
Second and third-place finishers will advance to a final qualifier, joining Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.
“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family.”
The Olympic tournament will take place from July 28-Aug. 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama.
Hosts Japan, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)
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