His Raptors are fading, but a frustrated Kyle Lowry vows to keep his 'mouth shut, keep it professional'

Kyle Lowry with the quiet growl. (Getty Images)

It turns out that the Toronto Raptors aren’t as reliable as we thought, even in relative anonymity.

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If you’d hoped to leave the Raps where you found them in 2016 – an expected No. 2 in the East to the championship-defending Cleveland Cavaliers, superior offense and standout backcourt play – this weekend probably didn’t go as planned. Toronto blew a 16-point lead in what seemed like a capable, cruise control-win in waiting over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday, the group’s fourth loss in six games, and tenth loss in 14 contests.

Following the game, Kyle Lowry clearly didn’t have enough words for whatever the hell just happened to his team’s season:


There was a lot of holding back:



Less discursive was one anonymous Raptor fan, posting on Reddit, who swore “on my girlfriend’s life that I will not eat until Dwane Casey is let go” as Toronto head coach.

If a hunger strike for a 32-23 team seems like an overreaction, keep in mind that this is still the team that was once 14 games over .500, and also still the franchise that dealt a quitting Vince Carter, paid Alonzo Mourning eight figures’ worth of cash not to play for them and drafted Rafael Araujo in the lottery all within the same calendar year.

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Desperation, for Raptor fans, is often part of its charm. What’s less appealing is the squad’s play of late, work that has left them ranked fourth in the East, just a half-game up on an Atlanta Hawks squad that still has to ask the press not to giggle after sincerely answering questions about its rebuilding interests:

“He’s not going anywhere,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, who also serves as president of basketball operations, to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday. “You can write that.”

That Hawk team was thought to be on the ready to jettison its 2016-17 season and forward Paul Millsap at the same time, with the Raptors acting as the lucky beneficiary from both movements. Millsap would appear to come from central casting, as the Raptors drew up their story’s lineup, but the Hawks seem to have no interest in dealing Millsap, they’re no closer to moving the 31-year old All-Star than they were just after what felt like the white flag of the Kyle Korver trade.

Instead, the team Toronto beat (at home) by 44 points earlier in the season could take the Raptors first round playoff home court advantage away from them.

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On Sunday night, Rogers Sportsnet’s Michael Grange took the tone of the room:


With the Raptors convening at practice prior to jetting off to Chicago for a game against the just-as calamitous Bulls, Lowry and Casey met the media in hopes of distorting the rather ominous picture Kyle’s comments painted on Sunday night:




On Monday, Grange took the tone again:


This is hardly a team working without a heart, not with Kyle Lowry around, in spite of a slate of recent, embarrassing losses (like, to the Magic. Twice). The offense has dropped off badly, though, and not in movements that could be argued away as part of an expected regression after the squad’s early, line-shifting brilliance on that end to start 2016-17.

So the Raptors aren’t on pace to win 56 games this season, as they were after 41 games in 2016-17, and as they settled out in 2015-16. Perhaps they’re not as bad as the 4-10 mark they’ve given the Starving Redditors quoted above, and it’s also true that even in a conference that is struggling to establish itself beyond the (squabbling, on their own) defending champions the Raptors may not be as good as the team we saw last season. Even if they just miss the mark.

Ongoing injuries to Patrick Patterson (the Raptors are 8-7 with him out of the lineup, 2-2 since his latest left knee setback), inactivity from the team’s front office as it waits for the group’s litany of in-and-out project big men to develop, and the continually creeping uneasiness about center Jonas Valanciunas’ form and function remain. DeMarre Carroll has shot well of late, but his post-injury concerns remain. These are the sorts of swoons that result, when Jared Sullinger is asked to act as a linchpin.

There is still time, a week and a half in fact, for Raptor general manager Masai Ujiri to make a deal before the Feb. 23 trade deadline. Beyond Paul Millsap, the Raptors have been linked to the Orlando Magic in their desperate attempts to save face with big man Serge Ibaka.

Even if the Magic weren’t working under the sunk cost cloud, attempting to squeeze one of Ujiri’s prospects or this year’s Los Angeles Clippers first rounder (likely to be owned by the Raps) out of Orlando  (for a 2017 free agent in Ibaka) seems like a pie-eyed moonshot until you remember that this is the NBA, and trades are intended for our amusement.

There is little to amuse ourselves with regarding the Raptors at the moment, as they settle into the place that they probably should have been resting in all along. It’s unfortunate to see these things as unsettled as they are prior to Kyle Lowry’s 2017 free agent turn, three years after the Raptors committed to him in the wake of Ujiri’s ascension, but this is how GM’ing goes when you try to have it all.

And it’s how playing in the NBA goes, when it seems like it’s all slipping away.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!