You can check out the free agency live update thread to get the taste of how it went down and all the links/tweets/etc from the last two days, but here’s the gist of it: the Raptors are nowhere close to signing Kyle Lowry.

Lowry has met with the Houston Rockets including Kevin McHale and Daryl Morey, the former who he has very much patched things up with, and they can offer him money in the $12M range. This happened in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The Raptors, including Masai Ujiri and Dwane Casey, met him during the day and presented their offer. There has also been reportedly been a bid from the Lakers but details of that are very unclear and there hasn’t been a face-to-face meeting with them.  The latest is that he’s going to take some time to mull things over, which doesn’t bode well for the Raptors because all it does is give other teams time to sweeten their offers and present more doors to Lowry.

The Miami Heat have been telling FAs that they have $12M to spend, which if you believe them, puts them on par with what the Raptors have been rumoured to offer (~$12M). The latest reports, though, say that the Heat have not progressed in talks.   There was even some talk of the Raptors adding a fifth year to sweeten the deal, but that’s just that, talk.  Where we stand presently is somewhere here: Lowry has cash offers similar to what he got from the Raptors from teams that are closer to a championship than the Raptors are.  That is the bottom line.  There was a sense of confidence amongst us that the Raptors would be the only team to give Lowry his pending “big pay day”, which is turning out to be false.  He has interest from teams who are working very hard to create room to accommodate him, or will have room if a sign-and-trade is executed.

Houston was rumoured to be interested in a sign-and-trade for Lowry which – and I don’t want to sound doom-and-gloom here – could potentially be the Raptors best course of action.  At the end of the day, if Lowry wants to be elsewhere and get paid, it’s in the Raptors best interest to get whatever they can in return, much like Bryan Colangelo did with Chris Bosh.  The Raptors are not going to be able to lure Lowry based on what they can offer financially alone, and nor should they.  The last thing you want is a player who is on your roster just for financial reasons.   Looking at the Houston PG lineup of Patrick Beverley, Isaiah Canaan, and Jeremy Lin, if the Raptors are able to squeeze Berverley and a pick out, it would be sound business considering Lowry’s unrestricted status.

Obviously, all that is Plan B and Plan A remains to bring Lowry back.  There’s some talk of the Raptors potentially pushing the $14M mark to retain him and how that would be bad for the long-term.  I call that hogwash.  If a player can play, sign him up.  He’s never going to be a cap-crippling player and barring injury, will always have value.  In a league where contracts like Rashard Lewis and Rudy Gay have no trouble moving around, I find it hard to be too concerned that an under-30 Lowry is the reason our salary situation will be busted.  My view is that when you have talent, you do whatever it takes to retain it, especially considering the positions of the Raptors draft picks in the coming years.

There is no news on the Greivis Vasquez front except that Shaun Livingston signed a $16M/3yr deal, which works out to $5.3M a season.  Does that set the bar for Vasquez?  The Venezuelan made $2.15M last season and if Livingston, who you might consider a more versatile player albeit has injury concerns, maxes out at $5.3M, what does that mean for Vasquez?  The Raptors hope that any offer Vasquez signs is between the two numbers, making it around $3.7M which would be a reasonable rate for him.

The last we heard from Vasquez was after he received his qualifying offer:

“I’m happy with my qualifying offer, but more than that, I want to sign a multi-year deal with Toronto. So hopefully everything is taken care of, beginning tonight because free agency starts at 12 o’clock tonight. So I really hope that we get a good deal and I can be in Toronto for a few years or hopefully my whole career.”

If Vasquez is “happy” with his qualifying offer of $3.2M, then a rate of $3.7M would be a boon for him, especially over multiple years.  What Day One told us is that nobody is dying to sign Greivis Vasquez, as there were literally no reports about him at all, so the competition the Raptors are facing for him could be manageable.

Going back to the Lowry front, I really feel that this is more than just about a free-agent.  The Raptors have been historically awful are retaining their big free-agents and here we are the crossroads yet again.  I feel that signing Lowry is critical to sending out a message to the rest of the league that Toronto, as Tim Leiweke purports, is a world-class city with world-class franchises that should not have any trouble attracting players.   This is about the stature of the Raptors franchise as much as it is about retaining Lowry.  If we’re able to retain the best free-agent PG against competition from Miami, Houston, and the Lakers, that would send out a very strong message.

Part of me thought that having put Lowry on the block in December might come into play here, and that might be a sticking point for Lowry.  However, if Houston, who actually traded him, have the balls to come back and offer deals, then the Raptors have nothing to worry about on that front.

I do like the confidence the Raptors have in their approach of Lowry. The latest reported stated that the Toronto camp felt a measure of confidence since “he knows us, and we know him”.  Every report thus far has talked about how confident the Raptors are that they can keep Lowry despite interest from big clubs.  I’m not sure if their confidence stems from the amount offered, the situation in Toronto, or simply knowing Kyle Lowry, one just hopes it’s not unfounded.  The Raptors “sources” that keep talking about this confidence also tend to iterate that they have an alternate plan in place if things work out.  I don’t know what that looks like, except that it’s not as good as Lowry actually re-signing.

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