TORONTO – Kyle Lowry’s nine-year relationship with the Toronto Raptors is fascinating for a whole bunch of reasons, not the least of which is the sheer number of times it has almost come to an end.
He’s nearly been traded on multiple occasions since his tenure began just short of a decade ago. He’s nearly left in free agency on multiple occasions, too. They’ve squabbled, damn near broken up more times than either side can count, but somehow, someway, something always seems to keep them together, and it’s worked out pretty well for both parties.
But with Thursday’s NBA trade deadline approaching and Lowry rumoured to be on the block, the time to go their separate ways had finally arrived, or so many thought.
Don’t write Lowry’s Raptors eulogy just yet, though. The most important player in franchise history isn’t done adding to his legacy.
Toronto took it down to the wire, reviewing offers from three interested teams – Miami, Philadelphia and the Lakers – right until the buzzer, but in the end nothing materialized, and none of the parties involved were unhappy about that.
Up until recently, the Raptors had not seriously considered moving the veteran point guard. Even in recent days, as they started listening to offers, they were never aggressive in soliciting them.
Lowry and his representatives, who were consulted throughout the process, made it clear that they would be content with playing out the rest of the season before hitting free agency in the summer. As such, the Raptors felt no pressure to send him elsewhere. They always insisted that they would be more than comfortable hanging onto him past the deadline unless somebody met their lofty asking price. They weren’t bluffing, as teams would ultimately find out.
The offers on the table for Lowry were underwhelming, according to multiple sources. There was a lot of posturing from some savvy front offices, but even in those final moments before the clock struck 3 p.m. ET nobody blinked, and neither did Raptors president Masai Ujiri or general manager Bobby Webster.
“There are one million things we talk about and you do one, and sometimes you do none,” Ujiri said on Thursday evening. “Did we come close to doing something? Maybe in my mind I might say yes, but maybe on the other team it wasn’t so close, so you don’t even know… There are a couple things that seemed like [they] could get done, but we’ve learned that a lot of times these things, a lot of them don’t happen, too.”
The Raptors held strong and opted not to give a franchise icon away for pennies on the dollar, which should be applauded, but it also made for an unusual deadline day.
In many ways Wednesday’s dominant win over the Denver Nuggets, which snapped a nine-game losing skid, felt like an appropriate send off for Lowry. Even he wondered if it might have been his final game in a Raptors uniform – although that thought had crossed his mind before.
What many anticipated to be a transformative deadline day for the organization turned out to be relatively quiet, all things considered. The Raptors did make three moves; sending their second-longest tenured player, Norman Powell, to Portland for third-year wing Gary Trent Jr. and veteran journeyman Rodney Hood, and swapping a couple depth pieces – guards Matt Thomas and Terence Davis – for second-round picks. Good business, but somewhat uninspiring relative to expectations.
The sense was that this would be a crossroads for the team – a chance to choose and commit to one path or the other. Either they’d declare themselves sellers, turning the page and ostensibly bringing an end to the golden era of Raptors basketball, or they’d look to buy and improve their chances of making a run this season. They didn’t really do either, but that’s a reflection of the market as much as it’s an indictment of them.
What’s important to remember is that you can’t wish an offer or a trade into existence. The Raptors were willing to move Lowry, as difficult as that decision would have been, if they could replenish their developmental pipeline with the assets – picks and prospects – they believed he was worth. That opportunity never presented itself, though.
The two concerns that kept coming up in talks with other teams, according to sources, were Lowry’s age – he turned 35 on deadline day – and his contractual situation. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, he’s not eligible for an extension during the campaign, and any attempt to discuss his next deal prior to the off-season would be deemed tampering, so teams were flying blind on his plans for the future.
The Sixers and Lakers feared the possibility of giving up key assets for a rental. Feeling like they’ll have a good shot at signing him outright in free agency this summer, the Heat were reluctant to increase their offer and include sophomore guard Tyler Herro.
It seems like a miscalculation, particularly on the part of the Sixers and Heat, who intend on chasing a championship but are a piece away from separating themselves in a tight Eastern Conference race. It might be a case of overvaluing their own assets, or undervaluing Lowry, or some combination of the two. Regardless of age or contract, Lowry is the type of player that’s valuable enough to shift the balance of power in the NBA, and clearly the Raptors were surprised that nobody was willing to pay up for him.
“We’re going to be biased in some kind of way, you always are with your players but for Kyle we’re extremely, extremely biased because of what he does and what he stands for,” said Ujiri. “When you look at what’s out there, it’s difficult sometimes, even for those teams, to see his value.”
“If we were going to do something we were honestly going to do [it] right by Kyle, so you are limited in what you can do that way with the teams that you can do something with. That’s the respect we have for him, and we’ve come a long way and I think we owe him that respect as a player, as a person.”
Moving Powell was not unexpected and always seemed more likely than finding a deal for Lowry, if for no other reason than the market was bigger.
Powell essentially priced himself out of the Raptors’ long-term plans with his excellent season. He’s going to decline the player option on the final year of his deal and become a free agent in the summer, at which point he’ll command an annual salary upwards of $20 million. Somebody will pay it but it wasn’t going to be the Raptors.
It would have been hard to justify spending that kind of money, especially with what they already have invested in their core of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby, and the need for flexibility to build around them. For all of Powell’s offensive gifts – he’s turned himself into one of the league’s best and most efficient scorers at his position – he’s not a two-way player like those other three. The Raptors were determined to turn him into an asset instead of losing him for nothing.
Trent is somebody that they like and see fitting better on their timeline and alongside their core. He’s 22, five years younger than Powell, and while he’ll be a restricted free agent this summer, the cost to re-sign him should be lower. Trent emerged for the Blazers in the bubble last season and he’s carried it over into his third campaign, averaging 15.0 points in 41 games.
He can shoot the three (40 per cent this season) and score in transition. Offensively, he’s nowhere close to Powell’s level, not at this stage of his career anyway, but he projects to be an above average defender.
It’s a smart move – trading a player just as he’s about to become expensive for a younger and cheaper player that fits into the system – but it’s not one that’s going to make them better in the short term. They also didn’t address their glaring hole at the centre position or add to their depth.
This team wanted a chance to prove that they could salvage the campaign, and given everything they’ve faced – namely the relocation to Tampa and a COVID-19 outbreak that derailed their mid-season progress – Ujiri felt he owed it to them.
“They fight together, you see they like to play together and, yeah, there’s been ups and downs, you guys have seen it, there’s been challenges, but at the end of the day, when you come into our locker room with these guys… all of them really come together,” Ujiri said. “We’re lucky, we’re blessed that we’ve been a winning organization and hopefully we can continue that in some way or another. There may be stops along the way and adversity along the way but I think the overall culture we need to keep going and these players are a huge part of it.”
Despite their 18-26 record, good for 11th place in the East, they’re still in the race. They’re 1.5 games out of 10th, which is where they’d need to finish to guarantee a spot in the play-in tournament, and a tough but manageable four games out of sixth. They showed what they’re capable of in the win over Denver, but the same issues that have plagued them all year remain – the centre position, the lack of depth, inconsistency on defence, among others – and now they’re going to have to do it without Powell, their third-leading scorer.
It’s hard to feel any better about the present or any differently about the future. However, if you’re looking for a silver lining to an otherwise underwhelming day, it means the Lowry era continues for at least another few months.
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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