Sunday marked a crazy day for the Toronto Raptors organization as a whole, as they traded Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray, and Quincy Acy to the Sacramento Kings for John Salmons, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, and Chuck Hayes. The deal was completed in the late afternoon/early evening, just hours before the Raptors were about to tip off against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. This game also happened to be the return of Kobe Bryant, who was coming back after 8 months after recovering from an achilles injury suffered in the 1st round of the playoffs last season.
The remaining Raptors proved why they are professional athletes, and managed to block out the noise while getting a much needed win on the court. The Raptors earned a 106-94 victory behind a career high 32 points from Amir Johnson, and clutch down the streatch performances from DeMar DeRozan & Kyle Lowry. This spoiled the Lakers' plans on the eve of Kobe Bryant's home court return, but for the Raptors it snapped a 5 game losing skid.
Will the Raptors rally around each other going forward, or will the loss of Rudy Gay present them with the type of lackluster record they had before his arrival last season? To be fair, the Raptors started the season 6-12 with Rudy Gay in the lineup this year, and based on the near $20 million player option that Rudy Gay had for the upcoming 2014-15 season, the Raptors felt they would be best served to move on from Rudy and go a different direction for the immediate and near future.
Trades are indeed a part of the business side of the NBA, but the personal element will always remain. The Raptors were losing friends, and brothers. The news was certainly jarring & sudden, but the remaining members of the team were doing their best to manage the difficult scenario. Here are several player reactions
Aaron Gray was still with the team at shootaround once new broke that he was also involved in the trade. NBA TV Canada's Sherman Hamilton got Aaron's reaction to what was, then, very fresh trade news.
Raptors General Manager, Masai Ujiri, spoke to the media on Monday once the trade became official. A very interesting & somewhat insightful comment that Masai made during the press conference was his response to the question of "will this team be 'stuck in the middle' or 'no man's land' (as Masai has referenced it) now that this trade has been made". Masai stated that 'no man's land' will not be a place the Raptors will find themselves. When asked 'How can he say that (meaning guarantee)', he flatly said "Because I know I can say that".
It certainly would appear as though the Raptors are not done making moves, and it would appear that they are positioning themselves to either land a lottery draft pick in the upcoming & coveted NBA draft AND/OR give themselves enough financial flexibility to make impact player acquisitions in the off-season. While no one has any reason to doubt Masai Ujiri's ability to get deals done and improve the team he's working for (based on his previous trades in Denver involving Carmelo Anthony & Nene, and already in Toronto by trading Andrea Bargnani & Rudy Gay), the Raptors have a history of being just that; mediocre, for long periods of time. At this point, only time will tell where this team will find themselves when the dust settles.