Raptors head into Sacramento to meet the team that has perhaps had the greatest impact on their season without having played them. The trade for Rudy Gay was a season altering turnaround the likes of which we have rarely seen with Raptors or in sports in general. Kyle Lowry left the game against the Jazz with a sore knee and his status for this game will impact on it greatly. Lowry was named the Eastern Conference Player of the week. A nice nod for the Raptors point guard who has had a very successful run of late. It also is some validation for the many that see him as the most glaring omission to the All-Star rosters.
The Raptors will face off against Rudy Gay for the first time since he left. While the Raptors season has had a turn of fortune since he left so as Gay’s individual season. The differences are just as dramatic as the Raptors transformation. The biggest difference is in field goal percentage as a Raptor Gay was shooting 38.8% from the field. In 25 games with Kings he is shooting 53% and averaging 2.3 more points per game. That lack of efficiency was part of what was killing the Raptors. Also of not Gay’s average attempts are down since going to the Kings. He was getting labelled as a ball hog for his selfish play in Toronto.
Only Rudy Gay knows if he really wanted to be in Toronto and be part of the Raptors. I can only from my own observations that I never felt that he was all that connected to Toronto. I think he was with his team and the guys in the locker room. But I never got the sense he felt like he wanted to be here. Sure he said all the right things but it just lacked the sincerity to it all.
Which natural leads to the transition to how much sincerity is there in Kyle Lowry’s desire to remain in Toronto? Gay and Lowry are close and Kyle made Gay his child’s Godfather based on the bond they built in Memphis.
Kyle Lowry is much harder to read than Rudy Gay. While Gay seems perfectly fine with being the center of attention with Media the same can not be said for Kyle Lowry. He will talk with media no doubt but always has an edge to him and that chip on his shoulder that makes him a great player on the floor is evident off the floor as well in dealing with the media.
Personally I have never cared if guys are nice people and easy to work with as far as the media goes. It is always nice to have a guy like Amir Johnson or DeMar DeRozan that is friendly and pretty enjoyable to deal with. However it really doesn’t matter at the end of the day it is about how you perform on the floor. It may cost you some things in terms of how you are covered and how people will view you but if you perform and get the job done that is what counts.
Lowry has done that in spades since the departure of Gay. Nothing was going to distract him from his own goals of earning a contract for next season. Some thought Gay leaving maybe Lowry would be next and his less than friendly demeanour would get even worse. I am not sure if Kyle Lowry is anymore friendly based on all of this but his play has not suffered one bit by Gay leaving. In fact he has been able to showcase his skill set even more without Gay in the Raptors line-up.
There is also all the guys Sacramento sent packing as part of this trade. Patrick Patterson has been the standout of this group since the big trade. At the time of the trade many felt it would be Greivous Vasquez but that has failed to materialize and in fact you could argue he has been the biggest disappointment of the four guys that Raptors acquired. Ironically enough he could very well be the starter against his former club if Lowry is unable to go. Even if Lowry is the Raptors may want to limit his minutes some giving Vasquez an opportunity.
The Kings without Gay and with him have been a bad basketball team with 16-38 record they are slightly improved with Gay at 11-19 since the trade. The Raptors in that same time since the trade are an impressive 19-10.
We saw the Raptors win in Denver for the first time in a decade on this road trip. Well Sacramento has its own ugly history for the Raptors. They are 2-14 all time and losers of 5 of their last 6 in the capitol of California. Pretty brutal considering the Kings haven’t been a great team for last 6 years. Big reason in the last few years has been DeMarcus Cousins who has had some of his best performances in the NBA against the Raptors despite a really troubled career overall at times.
So will see how it plays out at the sleep train arena which is not a great name for an arena on the west coast having to stay up so late to tune in. The excitement of these two teams meeting for the first time since the trade should be enough to motivate Raptors fans to stay awake. The fact with all the snow back here at home might allow people to sleep in as they will be tapped in their homes by Mother Nature.