Kurt Helin

Kyle Lowry says he’ll opt out of $12 million deal next summer, will seek near max

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Kyle Lowry doesn’t want to leave the Raptors, he just wants to get paid.

In what should be a surprise to nobody, Lowry will opt out of the $12 million he is set to make for the 2017-18 season and seek the big bucks as a free agent next summer. With the cap reaching unprecedented levels, you can’t blame him. The question is, at age 31, will the Raptors pay to keep him and for how long? Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports has the details after speaking to Lowry.

Lowry plans to opt out of the final year of his contract, he told The Vertical, passing on a $12 million salary in 2017-18 to join a point-guard marketplace that will include the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul and Golden State’s Steph Curry, who has already said he plans to re-sign with the Warriors.

As an organization, the Raptors have richly rewarded those responsible for the franchise’s unprecedented success: From DeMar DeRozan’s five-year, $139 million extension in July, to the extensions and high-end raises for president Masai Ujiri and coach Dwane Casey, Toronto conducts itself as a legitimate big-market powerhouse.

“If you’re that franchise’s guy, and you’re the guy that they’ve been rolling with, and you’ve given that franchise everything you have, yeah, I think [the talks] should be easy,” Lowry told The Vertical. “I think it should be a situation where a guy shouldn’t have to talk to another team. DeMar didn’t have the chance to talk to another team. For me, I think that at 12:01 a.m. on July 1 – something should be close. If not, I’m open to seeing what else is out there.”

Few players have improved year over year and put as much into their game as Lowry, who has risen to the level of All-Star, franchise cornerstone point guard, and Olympic gold medal winner. He has earned the big payday coming his way, and no doubt the Raptors will be willing to back up the Brinks truck to keep him.

The question is less the money than the years. Lowry will be 31 next summer, approaching the age when point guards often start to see a decline in production. This has the potential to be the kind of contract where it is a fair deal the first few years but the team may regret that fifth season. Can they convince him to take four years (which is all other teams could offer him as a free agent)? Is there a deal to be had?

That said, don’t expect Lowry to be a guy playing the field — expect the Raptors to step up, Lowry to agree, and the deal to get done soon after free agency opens.

Report: Nuggets guard Gary Harris out 4-6 weeks with partially torn groin muscle

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Gary Harris has become part of the young core in Denver, a “3&D” two guard who often gets assigned top point guards go stop. He proved his value on both ends of the court last season for coach Mike Malone.

Now the Nuggets are going to be without him to start the season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Groin muscles can be slow to heal and tricky — it’s easy to think things are good and push through a little pain, only to re-injure the same muscle. The Nuggets need to be cautious and make sure he’s 100 percent before returning.

Harris being out is a blow to the Nuggets, who likely will use some combination of Will Barton and rookies Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley to fill in for Harris. That’s going to be a step back on the defensive end of the court.

Oklahoma City beats Barcelona 92-89 for first win without Durant

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Forward Enes Kanter scored 24 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat Barcelona 92-89 to conclude their preseason trip to Spain on Wednesday.

Kanter drove for a lay-up with a minute to play to put the Thunder ahead for good and avoid a second straight defeat after losing at Real Madrid on Monday.

It was the second game the Thunder have played since the departure of star forward Kevin Durant this summer to Western Conference rival the Golden State Warriors.

The Thunder heads back to the U.S. for four more preseason games, this time against NBA opponents Dallas, Memphis, Minnesota and Denver, before opening the season at the Philadelphia 76ers on Oct. 26.

Barcelona learns what happens when Russell Westbrook attacks the rim full force (VIDEO)

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When Russell Westbrook gets up a full head of steam and starts heading to the rim, it’s all over. Except for the vicious slam.

Barcelona learned that lesson on Wednesday.

The Thunder were taking on the traditional Spanish powerhouse in Barcelona on Wednesday when Westbrook pushed the ball in transition, saw a path to the bucket, and just destroyed the rim. As Westbrook will do more times than we can count this NBA season.

Oklahoma City won 92-89 behind 24 points and eight rebounds from Enes Kanter.

51 Questions: Will Goran Dragic thrive with offense on his shoulders in Miami?

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We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For the past few weeks, and through the start of the NBA season, we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season. Today:

Will Goran Dragic thrive with the offense on his shoulders in Miami?

The Miami Heat are Goran Dragic’s team now.

At least they are on the offensive end. Dwayne Wade took his slashing-to-the-rim game back home to Chicago. Chris Bosh will not be in the high post because he will not be cleared by Miami Heat doctors to play, leaving the two sides at an impasse.

That put’s the Heat offense in the pick-and-roll loving hands of Dragic, who along with Hassan Whiteside will be asked to lead Miami. That duo — and just re-signed Tyler Johnson — will be surrounded by a bunch of players on one-year (or one plus an option) deals such as Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, Derrick Williams, James Johnson, and Luke Babbitt.

Expect coach Erik Spoelstra to turn Dragic loose in an offense that may lead the NBA in drive-and-kick plays.

In the Heat’s first preseason game (which is an insanely small sample size, but it’s what we’ve got), Dragic pushed the ball in transition at every opportunity, then raced into the paint with the ball, which created open three-point looks. Dragic has to be surrounded by shooters to be successful, and in that first game the Heat were 11-of-23 from beyond the arc. The Heat were moving the ball and making the extra pass, creating good looks. Also in that game, Whiteside had 16 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks — in the first quarter. He was everywhere.

The pieces around Dragic better fit the style of play he prefers than at any point since he came to Miami, that showed in their one game. They are younger, more athletic and explosive than they have been in a few years. The question becomes can they sustain this level of play? Will they get consistent play from Waiters, Babbitt, and Williams? Will Justise Winslow show off an improved jumper? And can the Heat keep doing this when they play in meaningful games where they will see far more talent on the court (John Wall skipped this preseason game, for example)?

Without Bosh, who is the Heat’s go-to scorer?

What the Heat really need this season is the 2013-14 version of Dragic, the one turned loose by Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix who averaged 20.3 points and 5.9 assists per game. The one who shot 40 percent from three and had a true shooting percentage of 60.4 percent (well above the league average). The guy who played at an All-Star level. The one the Heat thought they signed.

That Dragic has been missing for a couple of seasons now, due to a combination of factors including having the ball in his hands less (Wade certainly required touches). At age 30, it’s fair to question if we will see that Dragic again ever.

If peak Dragic suits up in Miami this season and young players buy in, this is a team that can put up a lot of points and potentially contend for one of the final playoff slots in the East. But with so many questions in South Florida, it’s hard to bet on that happening. More than likely, they are on the outside looking in.

But Dragic may end up being a fantasy steal this season.