The second of July was a fantastic day in Toronto Raptors history. News broke that point guard Kyle Lowry, the heart and soul of last year’s team, which played its way to the best season in franchise history, will make his return. Raptors fans across Canada, who feared last year could turn out to be a one-off, can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
The man that steered the ship is here to stay. Lowry agreed to a 4-year, $48 million deal on Thursday, with an early termination option placed on the final year of the agreement. $12 million is exceptional value for the man out of Villanova, and general manager Masai Ujiri worked his usual magic: getting this relatively low number without giving him the fifth year. Lowry, who averaged 18 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds per game last season, will undoubtedly be happy to see his salary nearly double.
All along, staying in Toronto was the most viable option for the 6-foot guard. There were many other suitors making a pitch for him, but ultimately Kyle felt that the chemistry this team had developed was just too great to lose. He met with the Rockets as soon as the clock struck midnight July 1st, but a previous rift with current head coach Kevin McHale negated any consideration towards returning to Houston. Miami also courted Lowry, but with LeBron positioned for a max deal, Bosh wanting upwards of $15 million, and Wade not likely to take a significant pay cut, there simply won’t be enough cap room to fit a player of Lowry’s calibre.
Although many may believe otherwise, his choice to re-sign wasn’t solely about the money. Yes, it was not possible to get more cash elsewhere, but it was also impossible to re-live the experience of last year anywhere else. Lowry has become the alpha dog in T. Dot, someone who the city has fully embraced. With the help of DeMar, the team is his to run, a responsibility he has been searching for since he first donned an NBA uniform in 2006. He has only been here for two full seasons, but the bulldog that is Kyle Lowry has already had an incredible impact on the franchise. His overall improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 helped cultivate the electric environment that was seen night in and night out within the ACC, as well as outside amongst the rampant fans come playoff time. The scene was Vince-esque.
With Lowry back, the Raptors’ ceiling for next year only increases. The continuing development of Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas will help bring this roster to even bigger heights, and who knows what Ujiri still has up his sleeves regarding the rest of the offseason. A history of losing shouldn’t hinder our expectations this coming season. The sky is the limit, Raptor fans.