Lowry ponders future after playoff exit
TORONTO (AP) — Still stinging from the heartbreaking end of Toronto’s playoff run, Kyle Lowry wasn’t quite ready to decide his future Monday. Even if that’s all anyone else wanted to talk about.
Lowry had a chance to get the Raptors into the second round when he got the ball with just over six seconds remaining in Sunday’s Game 7 against the Nets. Instead, his last-second shot was blocked by Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce, handing Toronto a 104-103 loss and leaving Lowry to contemplate free agency.
“It felt like the longest 6.2 seconds of my life but the fastest 6.2 seconds ever,” Lowry said of the pivotal play as the Raptors cleaned out their lockers Monday.
Lowry set career highs with averages of 17.9 points and 7.4 rebounds this season. He was a key cog on a Toronto team that won a franchise-record 48 games, captured the Atlantic Division title and ended a six-year playoff drought.
Pressed on whether he’s leaning toward a return to the Raptors or testing the open market, the veteran point guard said it was still too soon to say.
“I have to sit down and look at everything, weigh the options and do what’s best for myself and my family,” Lowry said. “It’s still too early, I’m still in Game 7 mode. It’s still early for me to think about those things.”
Lowry’s Toronto teammates have thought about it, and they want him back.
“I love him because he’s a warrior, he’s a great player,” center Jonas Valanciunas said. “He’s the spirit of our team.”
Forward Terrence Ross, who had a late steal to set up Toronto’s last-gasp possession Sunday, said he has approached Lowry more than once to tell him “you’re basically the heart of our team, we need you to come back.”
Ross, like many of the Raptors, praised Lowry as a leader on a tight-knit team that came together and exceeded expectations after Rudy Gay was traded to Sacramento in a seven-player swap in December. Toronto went 41-22 afterward, the best record in the Eastern Conference.
“Kyle’s like my big brother,” Ross said. “I look up to him, ask him for advice about different things on and off the court. He’s hands down the best point guard I’ve ever played with. He’s taught me a lot, he motivates everybody. I really hope he comes back.”
Lowry, who said he has yet to talk to his agent about a plan for free agency, acknowledged it will be hard to weigh competing offers against the comfort level he feels in Toronto.
“It’s very difficult but, at the end of the day, it’s still a business and you have to be a businessman,” he said.
Still, Lowry made it clear that general manager Masai Ujiri won’t have much salesmanship to do when he sits down for contract talks.
“I’m very happy,” Lowry said. “This has been the best season I’ve had through and through as far as coaches, teammates, (front office). It’s been great.”
If Lowry decides to come back, he will have the same coach as he did this season. Dwane Casey has agreed to a new three-year contract, according to a person with knowledge of the deal. The person requested anonymity because the team has not announced the move.
Casey’s contract was set to expire this offseason.
“He’s a great dude,” guard DeMar DeRozan said. ’Sometimes you don’t even look at him as a coach because you can talk to him about any situation. I think that helped us a lot.”
Casey and Ujiri did not speak to the media Monday. Both men are scheduled to give press conferences on Tuesday morning.
DeRozan averaged career highs in points (22.7), rebounds (4.3) and assists (4.0) this season, earning his first All-Star selection. His contract runs for two more seasons and includes a player option for a third.
Lowry said the chance to play alongside an emerging talent like DeRozan, whom he called “my brother,” is part of Toronto’s appeal.
“Playing with a guy who’s an All-Star, playing with a guy who’s on his way to being a superstar, a guy that’s learning to do it on both ends of the floor,” Lowry said. “Why wouldn’t you want to play with that?”
AP Basketball Writer Jon Krawczynski contributed to this report.