This is about Kyle Lowry, and this is about the end.
It’s about the last big step in what should be a Hall-of-Fame career for the iconic Toronto Raptors point guard and the first chance the Raptors have had to navigate a graceful exit for a player whose legacy should serve as a cultural shorthand for the organization within the NBA for years to come and as a touchstone for the franchise and for the city for decades beyond that.
There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s start here: Lowry is not going to be dealt before the March 25 trade deadline. It’s not that the Raptors and Lowry haven’t mulled over the pros and cons of making a mutually agreeable deal for the 15-year veteran heading into free agency, or that there isn’t interest in the six-time all-star who comes with a shipping container’s full of intangibles along with averages of 18 points, 5.5 rebounds and seven assists per game along with 40.3 per cent shooting from deep — all marks that are in the neighbourhood of his career peaks.
But, but, he… sold his house!
It means nothing. Lowry closed the deal on his $5-million home in North Toronto a few weeks ago, yes, but remember: It’s been home to only a quiet hum since last March with no prospect of Lowry and his family living there until next September. If Lowry needs somewhere to stay in Toronto by then he can buy it, rent it or move into a spare wing at Drake’s house until things get sorted out. A house empty that long was a loose end in need of tidying up. End of story.
“That place was vacant and just sitting there, so there’s nothing to read into that at all,” Lowry’s agent Mark Bartelstein said. “That’s a residue of the pandemic.”
But beyond that context, surveying the market and assessing where the Raptors are, it’s more and more clear the chances of a deal happening are remote and the notion that Lowry is pushing for one is far-fetched.
Lowry made his position quite clear the other day via his Instagram story, but multiple league sources I’ve spoken with over the past two weeks who have reason to know Lowry’s thinking has echoed the theme.
The persistence of the speculation is a nuisance, even if the reporting of it is understandable.
Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry. (Chris Young/CP)
“It’s frustrating from our perspective. A story comes out that Kyle’s told everybody he’s out. That’s just blatantly not true,” said Bartelstein. “It’s just 1,000 per cent not true. Are there a lot of teams around the NBA that want Kyle? Yeah, who wouldn’t want an all-star point guard. There are certainly teams that know that he’s in the last year of his deal and this is the time of year where every team is talking to every team about a lot of things, and there’s a lot of people that would love to get Kyle Lowry, but his focus right now is on winning for the Toronto Raptors.
“He has clearly not told anybody that he wants out of Toronto. Masai and Bobby and I talk all the time. You can never put anything in concrete in this business, things change, but there is literally nothing to all this chatter about Kyle wanting out or telling his team he wants to go there. That’s just not true.”
And while that’s easy to dismiss as an agent trying to lower the temperature for a client, it echoes precisely what other sources have told me with regard to how Raptors executives Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster have been viewing the landscape.
The Raptors’ 2-8 start might have lit one path clearly — had Toronto continued to stumble, all parties involved would have been amenable to making future-focused moves which almost certainly would include trying to find a soft landing spot for Lowry with a shortlist of championship contenders. But given the flattened landscape of the Eastern Conference and the glimpses of potential a healthy Raptors lineup has shown, the urgency to play the long game dissipated quickly.
“I really don’t get the impression that they’re moving him or that they’re looking for something to do with him,” said one longtime league insider. “I think the climate has changed where they’re saying, ‘You know what, we got off to a slow start. OK fine, we’ll end up 4-5-6 [in the East], worst-case scenario.’ So why push Kyle out?”
The market has dictated the thinking also.
Under any circumstances Lowry and the team he’s bled for the past eight years were not going to divorce. The Raptors were never going to trade Lowry to Cleveland for Andre Drummond or see if the Sacramentos or Minnesotas of the world — teams desperate to learn how to win — would flip some young talent for one of the most respected old heads in the game. Lowry doesn’t want to end his career teaching winning, he wants to do all the winning he can when he can.
So it was always going to be a move that pleased everyone. But while most of the league’s contenders — the Los Angeles Lakers, the Clippers, the Miami Heat and, yes, Lowry’s hometown Philadelpia 76ers — could use what Lowry brings, the fit is less than seamless.
The Lakers and Clippers lack the draft-pick capital and/or the combination of young prospects and expiring contracts to facilitate a deal for Lowry, who earns $30 million this season. The Sixers could put something together — some combination of future picks, prospects and veteran contract ballast is routinely trotted out — but as much as Sixers president Daryl Morey’s relationship with Lowry going back to their days in Houston gets cited as another factor to grease the rails, it’s worth pointing out that Morey traded Lowry in 2012 and passed on signing him as a free agent in 2017.
The Sixers’ window with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris all under contract should be open for several years. If Morey is going to go star hunting one more time, maybe he’s aiming higher than Lowry, even if the Raptors point guard is showing no signs of regressing from his all-star standards.
As for Miami, there has been mutual interest between the Heat and Lowry going back years. Some players and some organizations just seem to fit. And it’s easy to imagine that Lowry — having spent the winter wheeling around Tampa with the top down on his newly purchased Ferrari 812 GTS, golfing whenever time allows and enjoying the 8-10 per cent bump in take-home pay not having state income tax provides — might enjoy spending the last two or three years of his career in Miami.
But the Heat are light on draft capital to bolster an in-season trade and will have cap space this summer in free agency to sign a Lowry-level star this summer, so why weaken their hand now as they try to repeat their run to the NBA Finals when they have good reason to think of themselves as the most appealing non-Raptors alternative out there?
All of which doesn’t preclude Lowry returning to Toronto beyond this season. The Raptors’ core of Fred VanVleet, OG Anunboy, Pascal Siakam and — for another year at least — Chris Boucher is not to be sniffed at. And Lowry’s legacy with the Raptors isn’t to be trifled with.
But this is where things get tricky and will require a safecracker’s touch. Lowry’s not one to play at a discount and, based on performance, has no reason to.
“Kyle’s a special player and a special leader. He’s got so many intangibles you can’t even put a value on what he brings to an organization,” said Bartelstein. “The one thing he’s not going to want to do is bouncing around place to place, ever. He’s too great a player for that.
“Wherever he’s going to be it’s where he’s going to want to spend the rest of his career. He’s obviously got an amazing legacy in Toronto and I know he’d be thrilled for it to happen there, but that’s something Bobby, Masai and myself have to talk about.”
Setting aside that Ujiri himself is a pending free agent, if Lowry is looking for two more years at the $30-million annual pay packet he’s become accustomed to, is that good business for the Raptors? Especially considering they already have nearly $80 million tied up in four players while Norm Powell — who has emerged as one of the most efficient scorers in the game — will almost certainly also be a free agent and likely looking for his own deal starting at $20 million and up.
What will be the appetite for MLSE — with revenues down and costs up due to the pandemic — to spend luxury-tax money on a team that doesn’t have the profile of a typical championship contender?
The flipside is the last thing the Raptors would want to do is lowball their most important player.
So, absent an increasingly unlikely mid-season trade, the real challenge for Toronto is how to have the Lowry era end gracefully for all parties. The Raptors might miss out on a draft pick or a prospect or two, but legacies like Lowry’s have a value that can’t be easily replicated.
Maybe the way to do that is to allow the market to set Lowry’s value for him this summer. Maybe the demand for a 35-year-old, high-mileage point guard isn’t as robust as he hopes. And maybe the Raptors become a safe harbour and he can finish out his career on a team that punches above its weight all the way to the end.
Or maybe the right team — Miami, it says here — makes the right offer and the Raptors can send Lowry along with handshakes all around and begin planning how they can bring Lowry back to retire in a Toronto uniform when the time is right.
Lowry’s not going anywhere between now and March 25. I’d bet on that.
But he’s not going to be a Raptor forever and the end could come this summer. Lowry already brought the Raptors nearly a decade of uninterrupted excellence and a franchise-defining championship. His next Raptors first might be an amicable parting, setting the stage for a grand reunion.
Motor racing-Canadian Grand Prix cancelled for second year
(Reuters) -The Canadian Grand Prix scheduled for June 13 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal has been cancelled for the second year in a row, CBC Radio reported on Thursday although Formula One said discussions remained ongoing.
With the spread of new COVID-19 variants and Canada battling to contain a third wave of the virus, Montreal public health authorities concluded that even if run behind closed doors without spectators the risks were too high, reported the CBC.
F1 officials, according to the CBC, wanted to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine for the hundreds of staff, crew members and drivers and rely on private medical staff and have the entire operation run in a bubble.
The race is scheduled to follow on immediately from Azerbaijan, whose grand prix is scheduled for June 6 in Baku and is due to go ahead after also being cancelled last year.
“We are continuing our discussions with the promoter in Canada and have no further comment,” an F1 spokesperson told Reuters.
The Autosport website quoted a spokesperson for the Canadian promoter as saying the radio report referred to “a document of recommendations from public health.
“We as an organisation have not had confirmation from our public health officials and won’t comment until we get an official confirmation.”
Canada, with some of the world’s toughest travel rules, obliges its citizens and residents arriving from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days.
International arrivals are required to quarantine for up to three days in a hotel.
One of Canada‘s biggest sporting events, it would mark the second consecutive year the grand prix has been removed from the F1 schedule due to the spread of COVID-19.
Media reports have suggested Turkey is on standby to be slotted in as Canada‘s replacement.
The Istanbul circuit is logistically convenient for freight coming from Baku and was brought in last year also at short notice to bolster a calendar ravaged by the pandemic.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto/Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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.