TORONTO -- Come what may, the swirling storm of non-stop rumour-mongering that the Toronto Raptors have been in the very centre of will come to an end later today at 3 p.m. ET.
In a season like none other for the Raptors that’s seen the team forced to relocate to Tampa, Fla. because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic while playing through their worst season since the 2012-13 campaign, of course, it would be this year that the crown jewel pieces of the trade deadline would be players on their roster as well, right?
Both Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell are widely speculated to have played their last game for the Raptors Wednesday night with the team’s rousing 135-111 victory over the Denver Nuggets, snapping a nine-game losing streak.
If the many, many rumours and reports are to be believed, at some point before 3 p.m. ET Thursday, we’ll get word that one or both of them will be heading to another team for the remainder of the season.
The two longest-serving Raptors, both Lowry and Powell have left indelible marks on the Raptors’ franchise -- with a possible Lowry departure, in particular, being especially emotional for the team’s passionate fanbase because of his undisputed moniker as the greatest player the organization’s ever known.
However, with both Lowry and Powell’s contracts expiring this summer -- and with the club mired in a funk pretty much all season long beginning with their 2-8 start -- finding some amount of value back for a player in Powell, who may have out-priced himself with his play, and a 35-year-old Lowry seems logical, especially if neither player is part of the team’s future plans.
Or, at least, these are the core of the arguments as to why the Raptors should look to trade both players, and for nearly a full month we’ve been bombarded with different versions of this same story.
Thankfully, no matter what ends up happening, by 3 p.m. ET all the noise around the team will finally subside.
“I think that the deadline always kind of brings that, and we seem to be headlining a lot of it or swirling in the headlines a little bit,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse after his team’s win over the Nuggets Wednesday. “But yeah, I think it's some finality to know you've got these guys and you're going to continue to go or you've got some new guys and different scenarios and you've gotta kinda get back to work at square one or whatever.”
For the two Raptors who have been in the thick of it all, hearing their names pop up in the NBA’s rumour machine on a near-daily basis, this day has the potential to be a very strange one, but for the most part they’ve tried their best to block out everything that has been said of them.
“I really don’t pay attention to that stuff,” said Powell. “I’m not just blowing smoke to you guys, I really don’t pay attention to that. When my friends or my family sends a text about it or whatever, asks a question, I literally rub it off and ignore it. I really don’t pay attention to it, I’m not stressed about it, worried about it. You’ve just gotta face the facts of what it is and go about it.
“God has got me, he leads me every step of the way, so I have all the faith that whatever happens is supposed to be part of my (journey). I trust him and I’m going to continue to do that no matter what.”
“It's kind of like, ‘Oh yeah, you've been talked about all day, every two minutes you've been talked about.’ I mean it's just like sometimes you want to have your own voice but sometimes you want to live, but that's the world we live in, right,” said Lowry, when asked if the constant speculation around him was flattering or frustrating. “We live in a world where social media has a run of everything. Media can be basically tapped in from anywhere, right? You can do media from sitting down at your phone and Twitter and Instagram and all that stuff.
“... [So] your name is popping up but at the same time, like you said, it's awesome to know that people think you're this or that, but at the end of the day, you still want to be a human being and just, you know, you get emotional like, ‘Damn, this is still going on?’ But then you get it like, ‘Well, they're talking about me so I guess any, any press is good press.’”
This juggling game Lowry’s had to play and the admirable job Powell has appeared to have done to ignore everything around him will soon be over, and with it the stress that’s come with it all -- not that it looks like these guys are stressing much about this.
“I don’t have Instagram, my marketing team runs Instagram so I really don’t see a lot of stuff,” said Powell. “I mean it’s weird around me. I feel like with some people in the organization I’m always being asked what can happen, this, that and the other but I tell them the same thing every single day. Some of the people in the organization, our medical staff, were emotional and things like that and I’m telling them to relax and calm down. But it’s a business, you build connections with people.
“Yeah, I don’t really know, it doesn’t really bother me any type of way. Whatever happens, I can’t speak on emotions that aren’t here right now. I’m going to wait and see like everybody else.”
Said Lowry about how he’ll approach the day, which happens to fall on his 35th birthday: “I'll go about my life. I don't have an open line but my phone will be on and [my agent is] in my 'favourites' so it'll get through when he calls. But yeah, I'll live my life, I'll get up in the morning, I'm sure my kids will have a great gift for me. So, you know, I'm just looking forward to it and enjoying the actual day of March 25 being my birthday and that's the bigger, more important thing.”
So if you’re a Raptors fan and feeling stressed about what may transpire Thursday, try to take a load off if you can. Lowry will be celebrating the fifth anniversary of his 30th birthday with a few rounds of golf, Powell will probably be kicking back playing some video games waiting for news and regardless of if they get traded or not, life, and the Raptors, will go on.
“I think that all, I think, I've always said the same couple things and that's try to get the group you have to connect and play as well as they can together and then individually that the guys improve either in the marketplace or whatever,” said Nurse. “So if somebody goes someplace I hope it's a good move for them, that's it. I wish nothing but the best (for) these guys and I think that if they do make a move that they land somewhere where they continue to improve their value and find an important role in the team that they go to and continue to find some joy in playing.”