Greivis Vasquez says he’d love to play out his NBA career in Toronto, and he’s even signed on as an ambassador for next summer’s Pan American Games.
His future in the city will become more clear in the coming days as NBA free agency plays out.
The Raptors made the point guard a restricted free agent, along with Nando De Colo and Patrick Patterson, and so they retain the right to match any offer sheets they receive from other teams. Free agency was set to open midnight Monday, and players can sign contracts as of July 8.
“I’m happy with my qualifying offer, but more than that, I want to sign a multi-year deal with Toronto,” Vasquez said Monday. “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.”
His future is partially tied to Kyle Lowry’s. Lowry is also a free agent, and while Raptors GM said the team is going “full force” at keeping the point guard who led the Raptors to their first post-season appearance in six years, he is coveted by several other teams.
“This summer is huge because there’s a lot of guys who are free agents, and hopefully we keep the core guys together and we continue to be successful and continue to build something special, not only for the team but for the city,” Vasquez said. “Because to me we’ve got the best fans in the whole NBA.”
The day after the Raptors were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Brooklyn Nets, Vasquez, runner-up last season to Paul George in voting for the league’s Most Improved Player award, spoke passionately about his love for Toronto. He reiterated those feelings Monday.
“I like the culture, I like the atmosphere, I like the locker room, it’s a very very healthy locker room, players are together. We’ve got each other’s back,” he said. “We’re building something special.
“Obviously we came up short by losing in the playoffs, I thought we could beat them and go far in the playoffs, but that’s just the beginning. I think we can be a team that dominates and plays extremely well, and not just be satisfied because we get to the playoffs. We want to be hungry, we want to be more ambitious and we want to work for that.”
Vasquez would make his Pan Am debut in Toronto for Venezuela’s basketball team should his country be in the tournament. Venezuela’s men’s team hasn’t qualified for the Pan Ams since 1991.
Vasquez was unable to play in last fall’s FIBA Americas tournament in his home town because he was recovering from ankle surgery. Venezuela finished fifth at the tournament which was a qualifier for the upcoming World Cup in Spain, one spot ahead of Canada. Neither country qualified.
“(Pan Am Games) will be a lifetime experience for me because I’m going to be an ambassador who’s telling people about the Games, and I’m also going to play. That’s unique,” he said. “To me, that’s what’s one of the largest multi-events, and it’s going to be hosted in Canada, you can’t miss this, this is important.”
The basketball competition should be strong with countries using the tournament as a warmup to the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying event only a few weeks later.
Vasquez will help host the one-year countdown party to the Toronto Pan Am Games on July 11 and 12 at Nathan Phillips Square.