It’s not inconceivable that Lowry could wind up playing with James if he re-ups with the Miami Heat, but the economics in that equation would make it extremely challenging. The more likely scenario, by far, involves Lowry getting paid handsomely by a team that wasn’t able to convince the four-time MVP to come its way. According to two people with knowledge of the situation, the Houston Rockets — whom Lowry played for from 2009 to 2012 — are one of those teams. While Rockets general manager Daryl Morey will woo free agents like James, Anthony and Heat center Chris Bosh (if he opts out of his deal), he also will pursue Lowry if those initial options are no longer in play. It would be quite the full-circle kind of story, as the Rockets’ decision to trade Lowry to the Raptors in July 2012 played a vital part in their eventual acquisition of shooting guard James Harden just a few months later (the Oklahoma City Thunder received the lottery-protected first-round pick Houston had received from Toronto in that Oct. 2012 deal). The Los Angeles Lakers, who also plan to pursue both James and Anthony, are also known to be on Lowry’s short list of prospective landing spots.
While Lowry will certainly meet with teams and weigh all of his options this offseason, a return to the Raptors is still a possibility as well. Toronto is coming off of an incredible 48-win season in which they finished as the third seed in the Eastern Conference. “It was fun,” Lowry said of Toronto’s successful season. “I think it was one of those things where we expected it internally, but no one on the outside expected it. Internally, though, we expected to do something special and we said it from day one. For it to come true and to go the way it went, yeah it was fantastic and it was a joy to be a part of.” When Lowry looks at the Raptors’ roster, he gets optimistic and thinks that the best is yet to come. If he were to re-sign with Toronto and the team returned as currently assembled, he believes the future could be bright. When asked how good the Raptors can be, Lowry doesn’t hesitate. “Honestly, I’ve thought about it and I think the answer is very good,” Lowry said. “We have a lot of very good young pieces. It all starts with DeMar [DeRozan], and I think Jonas [Valanciunas] and Terrence [Ross] could be really good. I think that the team as a whole could be really good. Last year was a great year; we had a bunch of guys who just wanted to go out there and win games. Everyone was very unselfish and knew what was at stake and wanted to be a good team. I think the team is very talented. I think it’s very good upside for the Raptors.”
“This is a huge summer. Obviously, Kyle Lowry (is an) unrestricted free agent. I’m a restricted free agent … Hopefully they keep the team together,” Vasquez said about Toronto, which was eliminated in seven games of a first-round playoff series vs. the Brooklyn Nets, to WNST. “You don’t know. What I know is that I have one of the greatest times this past season with the Toronto Raptors. After coming off a tough injury I finished up the season very very strong and I did my thing. “Ultimately I want to be, hopefully in Toronto. I still got to give myself a chance to be a starting point guard. I feel like I can do many many different (things) now that I’m healthy. I have to give myself another shot. I have to earn that. I understand perfectly the things that I have to do for me to be the point guard that I want to be.”
“You don’t get to choose where you go in this situation so I just have to hope that it’s the right fit for me, whatever team picks me up. I think everybody would want to go as high as they can in the draft but I think fit is the most important thing,” he said. “Toronto in general I think would be a good fit. They have some free agents at that spot but, I think most players would want to go home and play in their hometown. I think personally I would love to play in Toronto. We just have to wait and see if that plays out.”
Despite what Ujiri has said to downplay the hopes of finding a rotation-ready player, there is no reason to believe that it can’t happen – especially given Ujiri’s track record in both Denver and Toronto. But in no way is Ujiri’s reputation on the line with the selection that he makes, assuming he doesn’t go in a different direction all together and decide to trade the pick. In any event, I fully expect fans and media to see the bright side of whatever Ujiri decides to do on draft night. The real test for Ujiri will be this July when a lot will be riding on his ability to re-sign Kyle Lowry and the other core pieces from last season, Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson.
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