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Kyle Lowry joining Heat after nine seasons with Raptors – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO — Raptors star guard Kyle Lowry is headed to the Miami Heat.

Lowry put out a social media post to his more than 907,000 Twitter followers saying “Miami Heat X Kyle Lowry” and “Let’s Goo!!” followed by five fire emojis.

The post came less than 45 minutes after free agency officially kicked off Monday at 6 p.m. ET. Deals will not be considered official until noon Friday, with the Raptors saying they would have nothing to say until then.

Citing a source, The Associated Press reported Lowry had agreed to a three-year deal worth an estimated US$90 million in a sign-and-trade with Toronto that will send veteran point guard Goran Dragic and power forward Precious Achiuwa to the Raptors. There was no immediate word whether those players will stick in Toronto or head elsewhere in another thread to the deal.

A 15-year NBA veteran, the 35-year-old Lowry has spent the last nine seasons as a Raptor.

Miami, New Orleans, Dallas, the New York Knicks and Philadelphia had been seen as possible suitors come free agency. The debate over Lowry’s future had started prior to the trade deadline but he remained a Raptor, finishing out a difficult 27-45 season played in Tampa due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Lowry was seen as a key player in the free-agent guard sweepstakes, one of the first dominoes to drop and set the stage for future signings.

Several outlets reported that guard/forward Gary Trent Jr., is remaining with the Raptors after agreeing to a $54-million, three-year deal, with the third year a player option. The 22-year-old restricted free agent came to Toronto at the trade deadline in the deal that sent Norm Powell to Portland.

With Lowry’s contract expiring, it was the long goodbye for the star guard. In February, there were reports Lowry — who was in Tampa with the rest of the Raptors due to pandemic-relayed travel restrictions — had put his Toronto home on the market.

Then the March 25 trade deadline came and went.

As free agency approached, the Heat appeared to be making moves to pave the way to acquire Lowry in a sign-and-trade. They picked up the option on Dragic’s $19.4-million contract for the 2021-2022 season, which would help to make the numbers work in a deal.

Lowry is also said to be close to Heat star Jimmy Butler, who reportedly was nearing a contract extension with Miami.

“To be honest with you, my family will be a major factor in this,” Lowry said in his end-of-season media meeting in May, when asked about what will shape his decision on what’s next. “And also money talks and years talk and all that stuff. Let’s be real.

“I play this game for the love for the game. But at the end of the day I want to make sure my family is still taken care of for generations and for time to come. Even though they are now, I want to continue to be able to do that for my family.”

But the six-time all-star made it clear he is not ready to walk away from the game.

“Until that time comes, I still have a lot more to give, I have a ton of basketball left in me,” he said.

He also made it clear he wanted to play for a contender.

“I want championships, That’s always been the goal. Money comes with that and you get paid, but championships are a big key into why I play this game,” he said.

The Raptors will look to Fred VanVleet to take over as floor general.

Toronto drafted guard Malachi Flynn in the first round (29th overall) of the 2020 draft and last week took Canadian Dalano Banton (Nebraska, 46th) and fellow guard David Johnson (Louisville, 47th).

Lowry became the face of the Toronto franchise, a gritty combative guard who helped lead the team to the promised land in 2019 when it dispatched the Golden State Warriors in six games. He has made a career out of proving people wrong.

“I enjoy the challenge of people counting me out, counting the team out,” he said in May.

Scotiabank Arena became Lowry’s house. His two young sons were often in the Raptors dressing room, playing video games or just hanging out with dad.

On the court, Lowry was the Raptors’ conductor.

He averaged 17.2 points and 7.3 assists a game last season, when he was restricted to 46 games due to injury. Toronto finished out of the playoffs, in 12th spot in the East.

Listed at six foot and 196 pounds, Lowry makes his living in a land of giants. And he is willing to put his body on the line, with a league-leading 166 charges taken over the last five seasons.

Lowry was acquired by Toronto in a July 2012 trade with Houston that sent Gary Forbes and a protected future first-round draft pick (the Rockets eventually moved to the pick to Oklahoma City which used it to select centre Steven Adams) the other way.

“We feel we’ve added a solid starting-calibre point guard to our team who will bring toughness, grit and playmaking at a very important position,” then-Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo said at the time. “At (26 years old), I would say Kyle represents what I would characterize as the future of the position.”

He was selected in the first round (24th overall) by Memphis in the 2006 NBA draft. Three years later he was dealt to Houston in a three-team trade that also involved Orlando.

Lowry is Toronto’s franchise leader in triple-doubles (16), three-points goals (1,518), assists (4,277) and steals (873). And with 10,540 points, he ranks second to good friend DeMar DeRozan (13,296) in the Raptors record book.

With 601 games and 20,813 minutes played in Toronto colours, Lowry is also second to DeRozan.

In January 2019, he added to his legacy by joining a select group with 5,000 career assists. Lowry found Serge Ibaka on a pick-and-roll and the big man beat Deandre Ayton to the hoop for a dunk in a 111-109 win over the Phoenix Suns.

“He’s been in the league a long time and he’s had the ball in his hands and got it to a lot of people,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said at the time.” Since I came here five-and-a-half years ago, it was the first thing I noticed — how he’d find the right guys to get the ball to. He really commands the offence and knows where to get it.”

Lowry’s pay was $30.5 million last season. According to HoopsHype, the Villanova University product has earned more than $190 million over his playing career.

Lowry is the latest member of the Raptors’ 2019 championship team to leave the fold. Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol, Danny Green, Norm Powell and Ibaka are among those who have already moved on.

Toronto Mayor John Tory paid tribute to Lowry, calling him “the greatest Raptor of all time.”

“He showed our city who we want to be. The fighter. The leader,” Tory said in a statement. “The player who’s got your back and leads the charge. Who takes the charge. Who falls down and gets back up. Again and again.”

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3 Keys: Lightning at Avalanche, Game 5 of Stanley Cup Final – NHL.com

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(3A) Lightning at (1C) Avalanche

8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS

Colorado leads best-of-7 series 3-1

The Colorado Avalanche can win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2001 with a victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at Ball Arena in Denver on Friday.

The Avalanche took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 4 on Wednesday. Colorado is 15-3 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including 7-2 at Ball Arena, but know this home game will be different with the Stanley Cup in the building.

“You try to treat it like another day, but you’re going to have thoughts of different things that haven’t been there all year,” Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram said. “But you’ve just got to stick to your routine, do what you’ve done every other day you’ve come to the rink and just make sure that you’re prepared to play your best tonight.”

The Lightning will seek to become the second team in NHL history to rally from down 3-1 in a best-of-7 Cup Final. Tampa Bay came back from trailing 3-2 in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs and a 2-0 hole against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final. 

[RELATED: Stanley Cup Final coverage | Stanley Cup Final schedule]

Now the Lightning need three straight wins against the Avalanche to become the first team to win the Stanley Cup in three consecutive seasons since the New York Islanders won four straight championships from 1980-83.

“You just don’t know how many opportunities, how many kicks you’re going to get at it,” Lightning forward Alex Killorn said. “I think for us it’s easier to think that you’ll be back every year just because of how things have been going. That’s just not the reality. There’s a lot of guys in the room that haven’t won Cups, guys that have been in a lot of situations like this in the past, so there’s a lot on the line and you just want to make sure you make the most of these situations.”

Here are 3 keys to Game 5:

1. Be smart at the start

Colorado started fast in winning each of the first two games of the series at home, grabbing a 2-0 lead in the opening 9:23 of Game 1 and a 3-0 lead by 13:52 of the first period in Game 2. With the chance to win the Stanley Cup in front of their fans, the Avalanche will try to jump on the Lightning early again, but they will also need to control their emotions and keep their focus regardless of how the start goes.

“Any time — a playoff game, a regular season game — you want to start well,” Avalanche forward J.T. Compher said. “We’ve done that at home, but it’s going to be 60 minutes. We’ve talked about it. The hardest one to win is the one to close out a team, especially a team like this. So we know whether the start goes our way or not the first five, 10 minutes, it’s going to be a 60-minute effort, maybe even more. We’ll be ready to play our way for as long as it takes.”

Conversely, the Lightning will need to do a better job of weathering the early Avalanche storm than they did in the first two games.

2. Status of Point, Cernak, Cirelli, Burakovsky

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said forward Andre Burakovsky, who hasn’t played since being hit in the hand with the puck in the second period of Game 2, is “a possibility for tonight.” Things are less clear for the banged-up Lightning with forwards Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli and defenseman Erik Cernak. 

Point returned to play the first two games of the Cup Final after missing 10 games with a lower-body injury, but was unable to play the past two games. Cernak left Game 4 in the second period after blocking a shot from Nathan MacKinnon off his leg. Cirelli returned to finish Game 4 after appearing to injure his arm in the second period, but his status is unclear for Game 5.

“This is definitely a game-time decision with a few of our guys,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “‘Cernie’ is feeling better, though. I’m pretty confident he’s going to play tonight.”

3. Balance of power

The Avalanche have been dominant on special teams in the Cup Final. Colorado is 6-for-13 (46.2 percent) on its power play and has killed 13 of 14 (92.9 percent) Tampa Bay power plays.

Failing to stop the Avalanche power play while not converting on their own has been a difficult combination for the Lightning to overcome in the series.

“We’d like to score on the power play. We’d like to be more productive,” Killorn said. “But more importantly, I think we’ve got to just keep them off the power play. They obviously have had a great power play and it seems like the way they’re going, pucks are kind of bouncing off skates and that’s what a good power play does. It puts themselves in a good chance and a good opportunity to score. So I think keep them off the power play and even if we do, we have tighten up and do a little better job getting pucks out of the zone.”

Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej PalatSteven StamkosNikita Kucherov

Brandon Hagel — Anthony Cirelli — Alex Killorn

Ross Colton — Brayden Point — Nicholas Paul

Pat MaroonPierre-Edouard BellemareCorey Perry

Victor HedmanJan Rutta

Ryan McDonaghErik Cernak

Mikhail SergachevZach Bogosian

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Cal Foote, Frederik Claesson, Riley Nash

Injured: None

Avalanche projected lineup

Artturi Lehkonen — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen

Gabriel LandeskogNazem KadriValeri Nichushkin

Alex Newhook — J.T. Compher — Logan O’Connor

Darren HelmAndrew CoglianoNico Sturm

Devon ToewsCale Makar

Jack JohnsonJosh Manson

Bowen ByramErik Johnson

Darcy Kuemper

Pavel Francouz

Scratched: Justus Annunen, Ryan Murray, Kurtis MacDermid, Jacob MacDonald, Jayson Megna, Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Injured: Samuel Girard (sternum), Andre Burakovsky (hand)

Status report

The Lighting held an optional morning skate. … If Burakovsky is able to play, Sturm or O’Connor likely would be scratched.

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Following Siakam's path, Koloko thrilled to join Raptors: 'It's just surreal' – Sportsnet.ca

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Christian Koloko has big dreams, but also plans. He couldn’t be more excited about them unfolding while wearing a Toronto Raptors uniform.

The second-round pick by the Raptors believes in himself and is confident he can out-perform his draft position as the 33rd player taken on Thursday night.

“My goal is to be a long time NBA player, to be a really good player in the NBA,” he said Friday in media conference call. “Being mentioned for multiple time all-star and just having the best career possible, because you know I kind of started playing basketball kind of late so I think the sky is the limit for me and I will continue to get better.”

But first, baby steps. Having grown up in Cameroon and finished high school in Southern California and then spent three years at the University of Arizona, he’s already ear-marked a portion of his first NBA pay cheque towards a big winter jacket, his first.

He’s seen snow once but living in a northern climate will be a new thing for the long-armed, 7-foot-1, 22-year-old.

Fortunately, Koloko has proven remarkably adaptable throughout his athletic career. Like most kids in Cameroon, Koloko grew up playing soccer – flipping between striker and goalkeeper. He played basketball only recreationally and like Raptors star Pascal Siakam, who – like Koloko — also comes from Douala, only began playing seriously in his late teens, arriving in California for his last two years of high school.

His first language was French, but he pushed himself to become quickly fluent in English, and over his career at Arizona he pushed himself to grow as a player too. He barely saw floor time as a freshman, came off the bench in his second year but in his junior year was a starter, a star, and earned multiple all-conference awards in the Pac-12.

“I think what happened was just me being confident, me believing in myself,” he said. “My first couple years at Arizona were really tough with COVID and everything. “I never really had a chance to work on my game during the summer. My first year at Arizona during the summer I was home and couldn’t do anything with the California rules, so I think I really lost that period of time.

“This year we had a new coaching staff. I came in and talked with the coaches and he told me how he wanted to use me and how he was going to help me get better. I just needed to commit to work hard and that’s what I did, and I think I was more confident this year.”

Koloko is confident he’ll be able to contribute in the NBA sooner than later, with his ability to defend at the rim and — hopefully — hold his own on the perimeter as his calling card. He’ll get his first chance when he joins the Raptors summer league team next month.

“I think I’m a really good defender,” he said. “During the game I can switch one through five and contain my guy in front of me. I probably can’t guard the point guard the whole game, but I feel comfortable during the game switching on a guard and making it hard for him to score on me. I feel like I still have room to improve, and I’ll continue to get better with that, for sure.”

He’ll have a ready-made role model and possible mentor at hand in the form of Siakam, who was an unheralded selection at No.27 in 2016 and has since turned himself from an energizing defender and chaos agent to one of the best all-round forwards in the game, twice earning all-NBA recognition.

The two have met in the previously though only in passing, but Siakam made a point of calling his new teammate on Thursday night, sharing some words of congratulations and encouragement in French.

Koloko considers Siakam’s path to the NBA from Cameroon as a template that he and others back home want to replicate.

“He [Siakam] means everything,” said Koloko. “He’s the first person from Douala to go to the NBA, to get to that level. He’s an NBA champ. He’s an NBA All-Star. This year he was in one of the All-NBA teams. He just means a lot, showing people like me that anything is possible. I think he said when he won the MIP, everything seems impossible until it’s done. That’s what he just shows people … even this year, he had the injury and came back. [He had a] pretty slow start and kept working on his game, and he showed people who he is. Just that perseverance he showed, he just means everything to the city of Douala, for sure.”

The Raptors are obviously heavily invested in Koloko reaching the upper limits of his potential. They have been tracking him since he was a 17-year-old at a Basketball Without Borders camp in South Africa in 2017 and told him that he was available with the 33rd pick they would take him.

For Toronto, Koloko represents something different in that they haven’t had: a prototype of the modern big man – someone who can challenge shots at the rim defensively and be a lob threat offensively, while having the quickness to contain the ball on the perimeter.

“I mean, he’s seven foot, I’m not sure what his wingspan or standing reach is but it definitely is something that we do not have,” said Raptors general manager Bobby Webster. “We probably won’t know [when he can contribute] until we get to be around that a little bit more. But yeah, I think as far as like a seven-foot rim protector? We don’t have that.”

Koloko wants to be more than that – he wears No.35 in honour of his favourite player, Kevin Durant – but he understands that he’s got to prove his ability as a defender before his offensive responsibilities will be fully explored. That he improved so dramatically as a free-throw shooter – from 35 per cent as a freshman to 73.5 per cent as a junior–  and that he has shown some dashes of playmaking while recording six assists in one game and four in two others provides room for optimism.

He watched the draft in Los Angeles, with his family, a night he won’t soon forget. To make to the NBA is one thing, but to do it while playing for Raptors vice-chairman Masai Ujiri, a legend in African basketball and alongside Siakam, a giant figure in their hometown makes it even more special.

“It was amazing. It was crazy. My family was really happy. I was happy for myself,” he says of his draft experience. “Where I’m from, it’s only me and Pascal from that city to make it this far. Even when I got to college, it was a big thing for me to get to that level. To get to the NBA, it’s just surreal. I’m just going to embrace it and continue to get better and show people that you can achieve anything if you put the work in, for sure.

“… I’ve built a really good relationship with Masai and every time I saw [people from the Raptors] they always showed love to me and having them pick me in this draft just means everything, man. I’m forever going to be thankful for them and I’m going to go out there and give everything I have for them.”

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Canada's Bianca Andreescu reaches Bad Homburg final after Simona Halep withdraws – CBC Sports

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Bianca Andreescu reached her first final in more than a year after Simona Halep withdrew ahead of their semifinal match at the Bad Homburg Open in Germany on Friday with a neck injury.

In her first grass-court final, Andreescu will play Caroline Garcia on Saturday.

“I am sorry that I had to withdraw today before my semifinal match,” Halep wrote on Instagram. “But unfortunately I woke up this morning with a blocked neck and this is not allowing me to perform to the best of my ability.”

The 22-year-old Andreescu beat top-seeded Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.

The Canadian’s last title win was her breakout U.S. Open victory in 2019, when she beat Serena Williams. Her last final was against Ash Barty in Miami in April 2021, when she retired with an ankle injury.

WATCH | Andreescu ousts top-seeded Kasatkina in Germany:

Andreescu knocks out top seed Kasatkina to reach semifinals in Bad Homburg

1 day ago

Duration 3:29

Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., defeated top seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-4, 6-1 to reach the semifinals of the Bad Homburg Open in Germany.

Andreescu, who took time off to recharge and work on her mental health, missed the Australian Open before returning to the tour in April.

While the Canadian was able to rest up and prepare for the final, Garcia had to spend close to three hours on court to beat fellow French player Alize Cornet 7-6 (9), 3-6, 7-5.

Garcia saved match point at 5-4 down in the deciding set before winning the next three games as Cornet struggled with an apparent right leg injury which restricted her movement.

Andreescu and Garcia have not met before.

WATCH | Canadian tennis star Andreescu answers questions from kids: 

Bianca Andreescu answers questions from kids

6 hours ago

Duration 4:02

Canadian tennis champ Bianca Andreescu answers questions and offers a few words of advice to young athletes from the Ontario Racquet Club in Mississauga.

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