NBA Sunday: Raptors Still Open For Trades?
As Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey recently told HOOPSWORLD, the goal for the 2012-13 season is to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 campaign. The Raptors took a big step in that direction, on paper, with the trade to acquire dynamic forward Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzlies this past week.
But are the Raptors finished making moves?
Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo is in the final year of his current deal and could be under pressure to produce a playoff berth this season with a fan base losing patience with the long string of sub .500 campaigns. The veteran league executive has also recently hinted the team would be willing to venture into luxury tax territory for the right deal.
Former no. 1 overall pick, Andrea Bargnani, is the Raptors player whose name continues to be floated around in trade rumors. Bargnani has struggled this season and is recovering from an elbow injury, which has decreased his trade value around the league.
Point guard Kyle Lowry’s name has also been linked to numerous teams over the past month. Although the likelihood of Lowry also being moved this season after the Raptors dealt Jose Calderon as part of the Gay deal is slim, there’s still the chance he could be packaged as part of a larger deal involving Bargnani, who is on the books for $10 million this season.
Lowry, for his part, understands the business side of the league as we approach the trade deadline. The guard maintains he’s happy in Toronto and wouldn’t want a change of scenery but isn’t losing any sleep over the trade rumors being tossed around daily.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Lowry told HOOPSWORLD on hearing his name mentioned in trade rumors. “It doesn’t. It’s all rumors. Until something happens, it happens. From now until the [trade] deadline, whatever day it is, you’re going to see a million and one rumors. You’re going to hear a million and one rumors.”
Lowry is on the books for $5.7 million this season and remains one of the league’s most efficient players for the salary being paid. What could make Lowry even more valuable to teams is that the $6.2 million he’s owed next season isn’t fully guaranteed.
Although Lowry has battled an assortment of injuries this season, the seven-year veteran is averaging 13.2 points, 5.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds.
“I’ve been traded before at the deadline, so there’s no surprise,” Lowry added. “Anybody can be traded at any time. So you can’t get too high, you can’t get too up and you can’t get too down. You just have to go about your business and be a professional.”
One of the storylines of the season surrounding Lowry, acquired from Houston last summer, were rumors about him having trouble adjusting to his new teammates. Lowry says those reports were inaccurate and could be chalked about to having new guys adjust to playing with each other under a new system.
“I’m really comfortable with my teammates,” Lowry said. “I know them really well. I know how to get them the ball where they like the ball. I believe I know the situations that they’re best in to help them be successful.
“I think we can be really good. We’re a team starting to find our identity a little bit. Earlier in the year we had a bunch of guys on a brand new team, so there were a lot of pieces that needed to be put in place. We didn’t know each other.”
Casey was one of the most vocal supporters leading to Lowry landing in Toronto during the offseason and has marveled at Lowry’s attacking skills while running the offense – a change of pace from the pass-first nature of Calderon.
It’s helped me a lot,” Lowry said of playing under Casey. “Me personally, I’m going to have confidence in my game but when a coach gives me a little more confidence, it is always good.”
At 17-30, the Raptors are currently 6.5 games behind the eighth place Boston Celtics for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot. At the current pace being set by the Celtics, the Raptors would need at least 41 victories, meaning the team would have to finish 24-11 (.685) the rest of the way. Obviously, the injuries to Boston’s Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger will play a big part of the playoff chase in the East down the stretch.
Down Goes Tim Duncan
The San Antonio Spurs are the league’s hottest team, riding a ten-game winning streak and boast the league’s best record as we near the All-Star break. The Spurs will undoubtedly be one of the frontrunners to emerge from the Western Conference come playoff time, if they can avoid the injury bug.
But one of the biggest concerns surrounding the veteran laden Spurs reared its head on Saturday night when All-Star Tim Duncan left Saturday’s game versus the Washington Wizards with a sprained left knee and right ankle.
According to the Associated Press, the severity of the injury has yet to be determined but Duncan has also been severely limited by the same knee over the past few weeks.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Timmy like that before,” Spurs forward Danny Green said to Jeff McDonald of the Express-News. “I’ve seen him hurt before — banged and bumped and bruised — but usually he gets right back up.
“Today, it looked like he was feeling good in layup lines, and he started out good, playing well in rhythm. To see him go down kind of sucks, not just for him but for us.”
Although reports are starting to trickle out the injuries sustained aren’t serious, it does shed light that so much of the Spurs’ hopes this season are tied to their 37-year-old Hall-of-Fame-bound franchise centerpiece.
Duncan is averaging 17.3 points and 9.7 rebounds on the season in 43 contests.
Cavs’ Forward Marreese Speights On The Move Again?
The Cavaliers acquired veteran forward Marreese Speights (along with Josh Selby, Wayne Ellington and a first-round draft pick) from the Memphis Grizzlies last month in a deal which secured three rotation ready players for Cleveland and a potential youth building block.
But according to the Morning Journal one of the pieces obtained in the deal may have a relatively short tenure as a member of the Cavs.
Speights is owed $4.2 million this season and has a player option for the 2013-14 worth $4.5 million. According to the report, Speights will likely opt out of the final year of his deal and try to obtain a multi-year deal in free agency this summer.
Speights, who is averaging 7.5 points and 5 rebounds on the season, has averaged 15.4 points and 6.8 rebounds on 53 percent shooting in five games with Cleveland.
The report states that the Cavs will entertain offers for the forward as we approach the trade deadline rather than risk losing him for nothing in free agency this summer.