In the absence of injured veteran point guard Kyle Lowry, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has provided Toronto a glimpse of the next era of its core leadership, per Dave Feschuk of The Toronto Star. The 34-year-old Lowry has served as the longtime emotional center driving Toronto. He will be an unrestricted free agent when the season ends. The Raptors have posted an encouraging 16-2 record without Lowry over the past two seasons.
VanVleet has averaged 22.0 PPG and 7.1 APG across 15 Raptors games without Lowry during the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons, Feschuk goes on to note.
“Any time a guy goes down, it’s that next-man-up mentality that we have always had around here and something that I have tried to continue to do is just increase my level of play when he’s out,” VanVleet said of adjusting to the absence of his current Raptors backcourt mate. “I thought the entire team just picked it up a notch when he went down and that’s what you like to see.”
There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:
- A strained left hamstring will continue to sideline Nets All-Star forward Kevin Durant as Brooklyn takes on the Lakers in a TNT bout tonight, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets that the other injured Nets All-Star, guard Kyrie Irving, will be returning to action for Brooklyn tonight. Irving missed the Nets’ latest game, a 128-124 thriller against the Suns on Tuesday night, due to a lower back injury.
- Now that the Cavaliers have established they are officially benching center Andre Drummond ahead of a trade or possible buyout, the Knicks should consider adding the big man to their ranks via trade, argues Marc Berman of the New York Post. Berman notes that New York considered trading for Drummond last season before he was ultimately shipped to Cleveland by the Pistons.
- The Raptors are recalling rookie point guard Malachi Flynn from their G League affiliate, Raptors 905, per Blake Murphy of The Athletic (via Twitter). Murphy adds that Flynn is available to play for the club tonight (Twitter link) in its current contest against the Bucks.