We have to admit, it was nice to have rumors with the Toronto Raptors cool down a bit. Reveling in good play is more fun to write about than speculative talk that is based on far more factors than just good, competitive basketball. Now we certainly don’t mind indulging in the rumor mill, especially when it’s about making that one risk that could catapult your team to a new level.
But just as we thought the Raptors had turned the corner this month, turning their back on the tank and making a full commitment to a team that was going all out every night and having success, we get news that we didn’t expect to hear.
According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Raptors are still pursuing a trade for Kyle Lowry and the “sense” around the NBA is that he is more likely to be dealt than not.
Wow. A couple weeks ago we wrote that we were convinced that the Raptors were now “all-in” in 2014 due to Lowry’s maturation and play, the team’s overall success and their stranglehold on the Atlantic Division. We were certain that even if GM Masai Ujiri preferred to blow the team up and start over, the circumstances just weren’t working in his favor; it would be setting a brand new precedent and we weren’t sure he was willing to be that kind of trailblazer.
This report from Marc Stein, the NBA’s version of Adam Schefter, contradicts everything we figured and, frankly, hoped. So the question now is what led them to believe that this was their best option? And where do they go from here?
Being open to trade is one thing, and Ujiri wouldn’t be doing his job is he didn’t keep his options open, but saying that he is more likely to be dealt than not? That is telling and hopefully does not hurt whatever leverage Ujiri might have. Lowry has been playing so well that it is conceivable that another team could make an offer that would entice him to make a deal. Lowry’s free agent status has yielded no definitive answers about his future and this news may be an indicator that Ujiri is not confident in his ability to re-sign Lowry. Or maybe he is just looking to sell high. Whatever the motivation, the talk has resurfaced. It cannot be welcome news in that locker room, where success and continuity may be uprooted again amid questions of direction and purpose.
When Lowry was being aggressively shopped last month we said that we didn’t think that he was going to fetch a major haul. Even though he has been playing at an All-Star level, his free agent status is going to make any team cautious in giving up valuable assets. That hasn’t changed.
We can’t imagine that Lowry has given Ujiri warm overtures about resigning in Toronto. If he had, we cannot imagine that Ujiri wouldn’t want him there. Honestly, we don’t know why Lowry wouldn’t want to be there. He maturing and playing at a level he’s never seen before. But if he is being very grey with his intentions, that is handcuffing Ujiri and not fair to the franchise that has given him the keys to realize his full potential.
If a trade does materialize, Greivis Vasquez would take over for Lowry and there are certainly worse options to have. But as we have said in previous columns, is that not the definition of “no man’s land”? Vasquez is competent enough to keep them relevant, but losing Lowry is a big blow. They are nowhere near the likes of Milwaukee or Orlando for a top draft pick, yet the Atlantic Division may be in question.
After listening to the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, we have had our fill of spin and flowery language as a cover for legitimate problems. Identify a path and go with it based on the evidence that you have. We’re vacillating so much we hardly know which way is up anymore, we can’t imagine how the Raptors front office is feeling.