One day after the Toronto Raptors traded Ed Davis, Jose Calderon and a 2013 second round draft pick to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi, the mood was…varied. While some guys were clearly still shaken from the news that two of their teammates were gone, others were looking forward and feeling excited about the new addition to their roster.
As the team walked toward the practice court on Thursday afternoon, Kyle Lowry took a running start and jumped onto the back of rookie Jonas Valanciunas. Without breaking his stride, Valanciunas continued walking through the practice court doors with Lowry attached to his back like a backpack and not the six-foot, solidly built point guard that he is.
Lowry was happy. Why wouldn’t he be? After Calderon’s eight-year run in a Raptors uniform, Lowry was back to being the man in town. Or, at least back to being the starting point guard the way he had planned when he was traded to the team over the offseason.
He was also happy because the arrival of Gay means he’ll be reunited with his best friend.
“Big shot taker, big shot maker,” he said of his former teammate. “Hell of an individual player and a hell of a person.”
Lowry doesn’t see the adjustment period having to be a long one once Gay gets to Toronto.
“I think he’s going to come in here and be himself,” he said. “We’ve got a great team already… It’s going to be a work in progress but he’s the type of player, he’s going to get his thing done, he’s going to get his numbers. He’s going to help the team and contribute.”
Gay will not be contributing on Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers, though. Expected to arrive on Friday afternoon, he will go through his physical and is expected to make his first appearance for the Raptors on Sunday against the Miami Heat.
Lowry said the two spoke on Wednesday after the trade was official. He couldn’t contain his smile as he informed the media scrum around him that Gay was excited about the move to Toronto.
“It’s very exciting for me personally and for the team and the organization because you get pretty much a superstar type player, a guy who could be a possible all-star for the next five, six years in a row,” Lowry explained. “Personally I’m happy. It sucks to lose two great guys in Jose and Ed. Those guys were great, playing great this year. It sucks to lose them but it’s a business before everything else.”
While Lowry was sure to credit Calderon and Davis, he was also excited to have earned back his starting spot. He is happy to feel the pressure of turning the Raptors around.
“You know, honestly, when Jose and me (were both here), we were trying to win games as a team,” he said. “Now it is my team. The burden of it being my team it definitely is the thing I always wanted. I have no problem with this being my team and having that pressure of being a point guard and everyone looking at me to make the team go.”
Dwane Casey’s Raptors have been in a lot of close games. Unfortunately, they’ve been on the losing end of a lot of those games because they haven’t had a go-to guy down the stretch. With Gay, the team will finally have a proven finisher for those situations.
“At the end of the game if you need a bucket, you get a guy who can create consistently and get you two points,” Casey said. “DeMar did it against Orlando. That’s one game. We’ve had so many close games. That’s star time. That’s the time when if we put him in the right situation, you’ve got to complete the play. He’s that guy. He’s done it in Memphis. … That’s what we need for our program going forward.”
Looking forward to having Gay on the floor, Casey acknowledged that the deal was emotional for the team.
“It is bittersweet,” Casey said. “We’re excited about getting Rudy Gay, an athletic talent. We’re happy to get him. At the same time we’re sad to lose two beautiful young men in Jose Calderon and Eddie Davis. We spent a lot of time with Ed this summer, working with him and developing him. He stepped in and took his opportunity. A classic story. I think he’s going to continue to be one of the most improved players in the league this year. And what can you say about Jose? He was the heart and soul of our organization. At the same time, it’s a business. I’ve been in this league for 18 years. I’ve seen star guys be traded. We got Ray Allen in Seattle and lost Gary Payton, who was the franchise, and Shawn Kemp. That’s the business of the league.”
When a team is 16-30, getting better is the only option. With Gay, the Raptors are confident they have a player who will help them in crunch time.
“He will be our go-to guy who can create his own shot, especially at the end of the game,” Casey said.
Casey and Lowry weren’t the only two with positive things to say about Gay. Alan Anderson was effusive in his praise for his new teammate.
“Amazing,” Anderson said. “Rudy is amazing. No doubt he’s going to help us out. I’m excited to have him. Sorry for saying this, (you wonder) how it could have been different to keep those guys, but excited to have him because he’s definitely going to help him out. Be ready. He’s going to be an exciting player to see.”