With trade rumours swirling, Kyle Lowry vows he'll retire a Raptor

The Toronto Raptors will be missing five players due to the NBA's health and safety protocols for the third game in a row on Thursday.

Nick Nurse to return, but 5 players out of Thursday's game due to virus protocols

Amid trade speculation ahead of the deadline, Toronto guard Kyle Lowry said Wednesday he plans to retire as a Raptor. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Toronto all-star Kyle Lowry vows to retire a Raptor.

On a night the Raptors announced more bad news — the continued absence of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and two other players because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols — that was one small glimmer of good.

Although Lowry, whose been mentioned in trade rumours ahead of the March 25 deadline, was non-committal about his immediate future.

"Let me say this: I will retire as a Toronto Raptor. That, if I'm here, I will retire as a Toronto Raptor... one-day contract, hey, whatever happens," Lowry said in a rambling answer. "What I would like to see is to finish this season out as strong as possible. Whatever happens, happens. At the end of the day, myself, my agent, the organization, everyone has to do what's best for them, right? Who knows what that is, right?"

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The Raptors practised Wednesday night for the first time since the all-star break, but without the three starters, plus Malachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw. All five will be unavailable against the visiting Atlanta Hawks on Thursday, but they'll have head coach Nick Nurse back on the bench.

All five were out for a pair of losses to Detroit and Boston last week before the break.

Nurse shot down a report that Toronto's COVID issues stemmed from the coaching staff not following mask protocols.

"That is a really unfair, very speculative thing to say, unless you have video evidence of it, because I don't think it's very cool to say that," Nurse said. "Our coaching staff has worked their asses off and abided by the rules as best as possible. It's not easy."

Nurse said he doesn't know when the players might return, and the five members of his coaching staff that had been sidelined for health protocols probably won't be back Thursday.

"Maybe, there's some right on the cut line there that could make it, one or two of them, after that I think it'll again be day-to-day," he said.

OG Anunoby is among five Toronto Raptors players ruled out for Thursday's game against Atlanta due to NBA health and safety protocols. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Nurse said it's like missing five players to injury, since they can't practise — a big blow to a team that had been hot throughout February.

"It's unfortunate ... We were playing about as good as anybody, for those 21, 20 games, we had a win at Brooklyn, two wins at Milwaukee, a win against Philly, we were beating the people we needed to beat and looking really good doing it," Nurse said. "It's going to be a setback, yeah, I'm hoping we can raise our level of confidence up going into these next three [games] and figure out a way to pick off one or two until we get our guys back."

Lowry pushes back against speculation

Lowry, meanwhile, has been making headlines recently ahead of the trade deadline, and vented on Instragram last week.

"The lies people tell in the Media are amazing!!" Lowry wrote. "Don't put [reports] out when they ain't come from me!!"

Lowry reiterated on Wednesday that he's bothered by inaccurate reports that claim to come from him or his team.

"When something is said that doesn't verbally come from me and I haven't said anything, that's when it gets to the point of like 'OK,"' Lowry said. "Usually it doesn't bother me. But if it's moreso that 'Hey, he said this,' then nah, nah. Did you have me on record saying that? I want to know who the source is because the source is me.

"That stuff is where you kind of defend yourself."

It will be tough to evaluate the team ahead of the trade deadline when it's missing so many key pieces, Lowry said.

"[But] we know what we could possibly be. The run we had to kind of get back to .500 was good and then we had a stretch of health and safety and contact tracing and all that stuff and it kind of set us back," he said.

"[The playoffs] is the main goal. We set such a standard and a bar here. We win here and we win at a high level."

The Raptors also say guard Terence Davis is questionable for the game in Tampa, Fla., because of a left ankle sprain.

The team also signed forward Henry Ellenson to a 10-day contract. Ellenson averaged a team-high 21.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 30.6 minutes in 15 games with Raptors 905 in the G League bubble.

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