TORONTO – Kyle Lowry will happily call the Toronto Raptors his team, and is excited about sharing it with one of his best friends.
While Lowry said it was tough to lose Jose Calderon and Ed Davis in Wednesday’s deal to acquire Rudy Gay, he was talking up his new teammate to reporters on Thursday, saying the team was getting a “superstar.”
“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 possibly be an all-star for the next five or six years in a row,” Lowry said of Gay.
The deal that sent fan favourite Calderon ultimately to Detroit propelled Lowry back into the starting point guard position — the spot that was supposed to be his when the Raptors acquired him last off-season but which he lost to Calderon through injury and the Spaniard’s strong play.
“Now it is my team, so the burden of it being my team is definitely something I always wanted and have no problem with this being my team,” Lowry said.
There will be an immediate level of comfort between Lowry and Gay. The two are good friends — Gay is godfather to Lowry’s son — and as Lowry pointed out “I’ve already passed the ball to Rudy before, so. . . when he’s here, it’s going to be an easy transition for him and for our team I believe.”
Lowry spoke to Gay soon after the deal, which also brings Hamed Haddadi to Toronto, telling the 26-year-old power forward that he was coming to a “first-class organization.”
It will be a few days before the two share a court, however.
Gay won’t play in Friday night’s home game against the Los Angeles Clippers. He isn’t scheduled to arrive in Toronto until late afternoon Friday and still needs to pass a physical.
Gay, the Grizzlies’ leading scorer and a player who Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo was believed to have been hotly pursuing for some time, had been the subject of trade speculation throughout the season as Memphis looks to unload his hefty max contract. The six-foot-eight small forward is due US$16.5 million this season with $37 million more over the next two years.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey said regardless of his hefty contract, the team is getting “a talent.” Gay — taken eighth overall in the 2006, seven spots after Andrea Bargnani was selected by the Raptors — is averaging 17.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game in what hasn’t been his strongest season.
“No disrespect to our players, but at the end of the game, you’ve got a guy who can create consistently and get you two points,” Casey said. “We’ve had so many close games, that’s star time, that’s the time when we put them in the right situation, you’ve got to compete the play.
“(Gay) is that guy, he’s done it in Memphis, he’s done it in his career, that’s what we need.”
Casey pointed out that the move to Toronto might breathe new life into the player who will be a major part of the Raptors’ offence.
“I think for him more than anything else, coming into a situation where he’s not a fourth option, he’s going to be the No. 1 or 2 option in our offensive set, and I think that’s just as much a comfort for him,” Casey said.
Still, the mood was somewhat sombre after practice, the sad departure of two of the team’s most well-liked players the previous night still fresh on their minds.
Alan Anderson, for whom the Raptors represent his 11th professional team, knows all about the heartache of being traded.
“It’s tough,” he said. “When I came here last year, (Calderon and Davis) greeted me with open arms, we just got along, hit it off so good, and just like that. . . unexpectedly. It was just so quick. It was more hurtful to see the pain, especially with Ed. He was having a great season, playing really good, best year easily as a professional.
“I just tried to tell Ed, it was nothing he did wrong, if anything it was a plus because he had been playing so great. Jose, he was just being a professional. He was more hurt for Ed. We expressed love before they departed and wished them the best.”
Casey called the deal “bittersweet.”
“We’re excited about getting Rudy Gay, he’s an athletic talent, we’re happy to get him, but at the same time we lose two beautiful young men in Jose Calderon and Eddie Davis,” the coach said.
Casey called Davis one of the most improved players in the league this year.
“And what can you say about Jose? Eight years of heart and soul in the organization,” he said.
The Raptors also sent a second-round draft choice in 2013 and cash considerations to the Grizzlies, who flipped Calderon to the Pistons in exchange for forwards Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince.