The Raptors had been extremely confident after meeting with Lowry and representative Andy Miller earlier this week. However, one member of the organization said that as confident as the franchise was at retaining Lowry, until he actually signed on the dotted line, no one could rest easy. They can get some sleep now, even if nothing can become official until midnight on July 10, when the NBA’s needlessly long moratorium period finishes. Attention can now shift to retaining restricted free agents Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez, both of whom were acquired in the Gay trade. The Raptors can match any offer. Vasquez has said he would be “heartbroken” not to return, but Lou Williams was recently acquired in a deal with the Atlanta Hawks and there are only so many back-court minutes to go around. Patterson enjoyed his stay, but has been less committed to a return. Lowry was an unrestricted free agent, available to the highest bidder and Patterson, for one, had made it clear he wanted him back. “He sacrifices his body on every single play and he plays with a lot of heart and passion,” Patterson said. “If Toronto wants to get better in the future, have someone to build around and be the key, the glue for the basketball team, what better person to start with than Kyle?”
The deal includes an out after three seasons for Lowry and makes him the eighth-highest point guard in the NBA this coming season. It is more than the Raptors originally wanted to pay. As it was clear that Lowry was the primary engine behind the Raptors surprising 48-34 season the hope was that they could get Lowry on a relatively short three season deal worth $30 million. By the time Lowry had led them to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons while averaging 17.9 points/7.4 assists/4.7 rebounds and finishing eighth in the NBA in WinShares – a catch-all measurement of overall on-floor contributions – it was clear his price had gone up. Even then the Raptors were hopeful they could get Lowry signed for four years and $11 millon. But when the NBA’s free agency period opened July 1 at midnight there were teams competing for his attention. Foremost among them was the Houston Rockets, who offered Lowry the chance to return to his previous NBA home and join a lineup featuring Dwight Howard, James Harden and possibly Carmelo Anthony. That they would likely have needed to convince the Raptors to participate in a sign-and-trade deal – probably centred around Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin and a future draft pick – made it unlikely as the Raptors were not going to help facilitate Lowry leaving. They needed to send a message to the NBA that they could keep their own players.
This was a big moment for Ujiri and Tim Leiweke. The front office has made a conscious effort to shake off the image of the Raptors as being a feeder club that is unable to retain its stars once they’re able to test the waters of free-agency. There was always a danger that the perceived need to be aggressive — to change the image of the club — could lead to the organization overpaying Lowry. But the team has struck a good balance here between sending out the message that it’s willing and able to keep its stars (Lowry’s still going to be making good money) but that it’s not willing to compromise the future by doing so. It’s also worth nothing that the salary-cap is set to increase over the next few years and if Lowry does decline at the back-end of his contract, his salary won’t seem like such a big hit on the cap overall.
Lowry gives this team its edge. He’s not Kevin Garnett getting in a guy’s face and using intimidation to get an opponent off its game. He’s not Kevin Durant either with that elite skill level that teammates expect will carry them to victory. No, Lowry is a competitor plain and simple. He has skill and he can get nasty in his own way, but most of all it’s his will to win and his confidence that has taken this Raptors team to another level. You see it throughout the lineup. Whether it was staring down the Minnesota bench in a game he took over or any other number of nights, DeRozan had a swagger this year that he has not had in the past. Part of it obviously was the success the team was having but a big part of it was what Lowry brought. You can call it bulldog or pitbull, but Lowry gave this team a fight and belief in itself it didn’t have before.
“I love this place,” he continued. “I love the situation. It’s simple as that.” For that very reason his return was hardly in doubt, though Raptors’ fans are generally conditioned to hope for the best and fear for the worst. The Raptors’ front office, coaching staff and even Lowry’s teammates remained confident a deal would get done throughout the process but he did have other viable options to consider, given his desire to compete for a championship and his status as this summer’s most coveted point guard. Bringing him back, amid the long-time perception that players don’t want to be in Toronto, is a major coup for a Raptors’ franchise that is determined to change their culture under the leadership of Ujiri and MLSE boss Tim Leiweke.
The Toronto Raptors are taking a calculated gamble, one that seems perched about partway between “trade an endlessly-chucking Rudy Gay for a series of expiring contracts” and “draft a kid nobody has heard of with the 20th pick in the draft.” The team is rewarding point guard Kyle Lowry, who has yet to make an All-Star team, with a four-year, $48 million extension. The agreement was first reported by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. Lowry should have made the Eastern All-Stars last season, his best NBA campaign thus far. He coupled dogged play on both sides of the ball with a willingness to listen and not break the plays sent out by coach Dwane Casey, who was also working in the final year of his contract. The worst case scenario is that Lowry will relent to his old ways now that he’s finally cashed in on a major payday, and that the leader of the sometimes whisper-rich Raptors will cut off the team’s ascension. The best case scenario? The Raptors are paying a borderline All-Star guard through his prime, someone they can rely on to act as the face of the franchise while pushing the team’s younger players into bigger and better things.
Yes, this is a pricey contract, but there were a number of teams going after him and if 12 million per season is the amount they had to pay to keep their star point guard, then it was money well spent. Lowry was one of the most coveted free agents on the market, but more vitally to the Raptors, is one of their 2 best players, 1 of the 2 guards in their 2 star guard starting five along with All Star 2-guard DeMar DeRozan. These 2 are the foundation of this team, are the 2 players responsible for taking them to the playoffs and almost the 2nd round and they had to keep their duo together.
With so much seemingly going right in Toronto, it’s not surprising that both sides want things to continue. While Lowry could’ve discussed deals with other teams, including one rumored suitor in the Miami Heat, returning to the Raptors seemed practically inevitable once the two sides showed interest in a deal. While Lowry has had a reputation for bumping heads with his coaches in the past, issues never arose with Dwane Casey in Toronto. He fit nicely next to the team’s wing rotation featuring DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross, plus he could have another nice complement next season if Lou Williams is healthy. In 2013-14, Lowry averaged 17.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 7.4 assists while shooting 42 percent overall and 38 percent from three. He’s also considered a solid, physical defender and helped spearhead the team’s improved defense last season.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey has called point guard Kyle Lowry “our engine, our spirit, our toughness.” Well, the tough, spirited engine is staying in Toronto. Lowry and the Raptors have reached agreement on a four-year free-agent contract extension worth $48 million with an opt out after the third season, the point guard’s agent, Andy Miller, confirmed Wednesday night.
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