What makes Lowry so special right now is that he isn’t just playing well and winning basketball games. What he’s doing is selling a story. This is redemption – and it isn’t preceded by some goofball tabloid outrage.
This is a guy who was the 24th pick in the 2006 draft, who was supposed to be a jobbing pro, an uncoachable player, changing his professional DNA by force of will. In Darwinian terms, it’s like watching a dog grow wings.
This Kyle Lowry isn’t just a star. He is the most indispensable part of the civic sports landscape since Roy Halladay or Mats Sundin.
Unlike those two men, Lowry has it within him to be a transformative figure. In the coming weeks, he can add a line to the 20-year obituary of NBA basketball in Canada: “Then the corpse sat up.”
In public, Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment is taking a Punch and Judy approach to upcoming free-agency negotiations. Ujiri is cagey; CEO Tim Leiweke stands behind him waving a giant, blank prop cheque.
Understand this: Money will not be the factor that keeps Lowry from re-signing. Years will not be the problem. He will get what he wants. If he quits the light in Toronto to step into the shadow of Kobe Bryant or Carmelo Anthony, it will be a judgment on the city. MLSE has gone so far down the road to planning a future with Lowry that, were he to leave, he would be derailing the train.
For a whole bunch of reasons – not least of which is the mental health of anyone who watches the Raptors play – Lowry has to re-sign.
Are you ready to do a deal?
“I honestly haven’t even give a thought about what I want to do after the playoffs,” Lowry says, in a fair attempt at feigning innocence.