‘I will retire as a Toronto Raptor.’ Kyle Lowry responds to trade speculation as short-handed club enters second half

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Kyle Lowry isn’t going anywhere in the short term, and he seems to have his long-term NBA goals all figured out.

“I will retire as a Toronto Raptor,” Lowry said Wednesday night. “One-day contract, whatever happens.”

Lowry’s future became fodder for speculation again this week when a report suggested he’d been telling people around the league for a month that he expects to be dealt before the March 25 deadline. He bristled at that report — using his social media feed to debunk it — and reaffirmed that point Wednesday in a media session after the Raptors practised in Tampa.

“Nothing bothers me when it comes to rumour and talk,” the soon-to-be 35-year-old said. “Of course, things are going to be said and be done and whatever happens, happens. But if it’s moreso than ‘Hey, he said this’ then nah, nah.

“Did you have me on record saying that? … You know, I want to know who the source is because the source (isn’t) me. That stuff is where you kind of defend yourself.”

The fact is, the Raptors have had no substantive talks with any team about dealing the veteran guard, and sources say they fully expect to ride him as far as they can go this season.

Lowry becomes a free agent in the summer and no one can predict what will happen then, but for now he’s going to do what he’s done throughout his nine seasons with the Raptors.

“At the end of the day, my biggest goal is to help this team get as far as we possibly can,” he said. “I’m always chasing the gold ball (Larry O’Brien Trophy) no matter what people say or this or that. That is always the ultimate goal for me, to take it day by day and help this team get to that gold ball.

“Myself, Masai (Ujiri, Raptors president), Bobby (Webster, general manager), my agent (Mark Bartelstein), when it comes down to that point the conversation will be had, but for now I’m just worrying about what we are going to do in the second half of the season and continue to grow as a team and help Freddy (VanVleet), OG (Anunoby), Pascal (Siakam), Norm (Powell), Chris Boucher, Terence Davis, Stanley Johnson, get these guys going a lot more and get them better.”

In the short term, though, Lowry will be in a coronavirus-decimated lineup when the Raptors open the second half of the regular season against Atlanta in Tampa on Thursday night.

Head coach Nick Nurse has been cleared to return to the bench, but five key players — VanVleet, Siakam, Anunoby, Patrick McCaw and Malachi Flynn — will remain out under the league’s health and safety protocols.

“There’s some indication (when the players will be back), but it’s silly for me to sit here and tell you it might be here, it might be there,” he said.

“Information has to kind of filter in. There’s processes that have to take place. Two guys that start at the same time aren’t going to come out at the same time, so I know we’re going into (Thursday) night’s game looking very similar to the way we did before the break. From there, I don’t know.”

Under NBA protocols there are two methods to determine when a player who tests positive can return to practice and games.

  • Test based: A player has to return two consecutive negative PCR results, each from samples collected at least 24 hours after the prior sample.
  • Time based: This allows a player to discontinue isolation after 10 days from either the first positive test or the onset of symptoms, with an additional two days required for a return to a game or practice.

In both scenarios, the player’s medical information must be reviewed by team and league physicians. There is more leeway for players forced into quarantine after “close contact” with someone COVID-19 positive.

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Each case is considered individually and also reviewed by team and league doctors, taking into consideration the length and extent of contact: Were masks worn? Indoors or outdoors? For how long?

Quarantine times “are often seven days,” the league’s published information says, but there are no hard and fast timelines. That leaves Nurse trying to mix and match a lineup missing three starters to begin a stretch of three games in four nights.

“They’re not at practice and they’re not playing in games. So you’re trying to field a team the best you can and move the next guys up and get ’em organized and playing, guys that aren’t used to playing with each other and playing so many minutes, etc.”