Philly through and through, Kyle Lowry embodies everything that Philly is. Strong. Tough. Chip on his shoulder. Emotional. Dug in. It is the dug in part that has the Toronto Raptors on pause. Lowry isn’t giving anything up, not yet. No one knows what Lowry is feeling because he hasn’t really said what he is feeling but let’s be real. We have all been Kyle Lowry. We have been forced to give something up we didn’t want to give up but were blindsided and forced. Lowry is not showing his cards except when you look at his face. He is not happy. His professional life was hijacked. And his friend DeMar DeRozan, his other half in his work marriage, was betrayed. Kyle Lowry is alone on an island.
DeRozan admits he and Lowry didn’t speak for one year. And then they became best friends. Not just talking at practice friends and talking during games friends and talking after games friends but talking when they were home too. When DeRozan found out he was traded, he called Lowry. It was the middle of the night and the phone rang and rang until Lowry finally picked up and his world was shook.
Kyle Lowry was traded from the Rockets to the Raptors in the summer of 2012 and it had nothing to do with his talent but his attitude. He annoyed every single one of his teammates and had to go. He was immature. He was determined. He was aggressive. He wasn’t friendly. He wanted what he wanted. And he didn’t have the requisite social skills, lacking an ability to finesse the situation. He exhausted everyone in Houston. And so they traded him even though the management liked him.
Like a lot of us, Lowry learned through the school of hard knocks and in Toronto he didn’t just reinvent himself, he just matured. He learned how to tone his Philly angst down and lead. He learned how to be a good teammate means sometimes you hold back. It means push and pull. It doesn’t mean Lowry wasn’t going to be Lowry. He and Dwane Casey had their moments. He and DeRozan had their moments. Lowry isn’t shy and bashful and he believes in speaking truth to power. But he has learned to pick his spots.
Every year in Toronto, Lowry improved. His second year with the Raptors he was nearly 18 points and 7 assists. His fourth year he was 21 points and 7 assists. The next year he improved to 22 points a game. He learned how to integrate his game with DeRozan’s. This past season, when the offense changed. Lowry took a step back as a scorer and let DeRozan be showcased as the best player.
Because Lowry is who he is, he and DeRozan clashed about DeRozan’s apathetic defense. Those spats have no bearing on what the Raptors fear. That Lowry is going to play 2018-19 angry. Don’t get me wrong. That will be good for the Raptors. Lowry is one of those NBA players that a mad player is not a bad player. An angry Lowry is going to be epic for the Raptors maintaining their swag at the top of the conference. But where a mad Lowry hurts is with the Raptor dream of keeping Kawhi.
There are two issues Masai Ujiri has to work out. First he and Lowry have to have a talk, a long one. He has to explain himself. He has to find some way to convince Lowry he isn’t indecent. Ujiri is the whipping boy for Lowry and Derozan. Ujiri doesn’t want this to be a Michael Jordan/ Jerry Krause situation with Jordan demeaning Krause at every opportunity. We called Krause Crumbs Krause because Jordan called him that. Lowry has to be professional in public. It’s one thing for DeRozan to slam Ujiri but Lowry cannot. Especially when the Raptors are going to be on their best behavior to convince Kawhi Leonard to stay.
Which is problem number two. Every time he sees Kawhi, Lowry is going to see his best friend is gone because of him. The good thing is Kawhi’s social skills are third grade so he is not into making friends. The best hope for the Raptors is that the Raptors excel and Lowry eventually appreciates what Kawhi brings even with DeRozan gone and Lowry without a backcourt comfort.
The thing about Kyle Lowry is he is not fake. He can’t be talked out of what he feels. He has to let his feelings take the natural course. But the Raptors want Kyle Lowry of last year, willing to make concessions. With DeMar DeRozan gone though, what is his incentive?
Ujiri has to emphasize that he gave Lowry $31 million when no one else would. That exhibits faith. This is Kyle Lowry’s 13th year. Unlucky 13? Or Lowry being difficult which makes zero sense because he is untradeable.
No one is paying Kyle Lowry $33 million in 2019-20.