Trent Jr., Raptors facing tough free agency choice

Apr 17 2023, 3:44 pm

Gary Trent Jr. didn’t have quite the end of the season he would’ve liked with the Toronto Raptors.

In last week’s eventual 109-105 loss to the Chicago Bulls in the 9-10 play-in game, Trent played just 17 minutes while shooting 1-for-7 from the field, totalling just two points and two rebounds on the evening.

But after missing a stretch of games from March 19 to April 5 due to an elbow injury and lower back spasms, Trent Jr. didn’t think the return from injury played a part in his tough performance to end the season.

“The medical staff did everything they can to help me prepare to get ready,” Trent Jr. told reporters on Thursday at the team’s end-of-season media availability. “No matter what’s going on out there playing, five minutes, 17 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes I’ll go out there and try to help the team regardless of what it’s going to be.”

“The team,” however, might not be Toronto anymore.

Trent Jr. has one year left on his contract with the Raptors, but has a player option and the ability to hit free agency this summer should he choose, similar to teammate Fred VanVleet.

“I’ll sit down and talk to my team and we’ll go in and see how everything plays out,” Trent Jr. said. “We know it’s a business. I love Toronto. Spent a great time here so far. It’s got good restaurants, [a] good city, a great place to be.”

Trent Jr. played 69 of 70 games as a starter in the 2021-22 season, but was delegated to the bench for long portions of the 2022-23 season, particularly after the Raptors’ acquisition of Jakob Poeltl. In total, he came off the bench in 23 of 67 games he appeared in, including the play-in finale.

“[My role] changed a little bit. I’m going from starting, playing 35 minutes, then not starting, playing about 20 minutes. [Poeltl comes] in a trade, my minutes go down. We’re just balancing, trying to play. It’s everybody, not just me, trying to go out there and roll with the punches as we could,” Trent Jr. added.

He averaged 17.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 66 games for the Raptors this season.

So what makes the difference if Trent Jr. stays or goes? It might be a cop-out answer, but, in his own words, a little bit of everything that’s outside of his control.

“Just being comfortable with the role, obviously the money [matters]… it’s a business. Everything that goes into it.. could be down to family down, to closer to this family member as sick or something be going on? From the time period now to [free agency there could be] a whole bunch of changes, anything could change for everybody.”

For now, it’s time for a little rest and relaxation for Trent Jr. before hitting the gym once again in preparation for his next steps ahead of the NBA’s free agency window officially opening on July 6.

“It has to be your mindset [to want to always get better],” Trent Jr. added. “If it’s not… you’re not in it for the right reasons. If you’re not trying to continue to grow, try to continue to get better and you’re trying to elevate and take the next step and no matter what you’re doing, you’re wasting time.”

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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