Raptors history is pocked with stars who just could not wait to leave the Great White North. Vince Carter made an ugly exit for New Jersey — pouting openly on the court and cementing a negative reputation. Tracy McGrady was just beginning to blossom when he hit free agency and jumped ship for Orlando. Chris Bosh was an All Star and then became the third wheel in the Miami superstar love affair.
Toronto’s window to win seemed ever-tightening with each passing year whenever someone arrived that could provide a boost to the team.
Kyle Lowry’s eight-year career has largely been a disappointment. Drafted with the 24th pick in the 2006 Draft, he and his college teammate Randy Foye were seen as tweeners at the guard position. They were not quite point guards and not quite shooting guards. Lowry seemed to have a mercurial road through the NBA. He never quite connected with coaches and seemed mismatched for whatever role the Grizzlies or Rockets had for him.
A career average of 11.7 points per game and 5.4 assists per game on a lowly 48.4 percent effective field goal percentage had the label of journeyman dancing around his career.
Then last year happened. Lowry put behind some of the perceived attitude problems he had with previous coaches and became a near-All Star, helping lead the Raptors to a division championship and the team’s first Playoff berth since 2008. It was an exciting time to be a Raptors fan as scores of people flocked to the stadium to watch the game inside and outside the arena.
Lowry averaged a career-best 17.9 points per game and 7.4 assists per game while shooting a career-best 51.1 percent effective field goal percentage. He became a true point guard with the ability to drive and dish and he finally made shots at a respectable clip — especially deadly from the wing and elbow-extended to the 3-point line.
Toronto rewarded him with a four-year, $48 million contract which he agreed to Wednesday night, according to reports.
That sent Raptors fans into utter excitement that their star would (finally) return. And at a decent price too. For an All Star, the reported $12 million per year seems like a steal for a player so integral to what the Raptors are doing and building.
More importantly for Lowry, it really is the place where he fits. And he could not put a price on that. Not after bouncing around the league for so long and, quite possibly, playing his last opportunity to be on a winning team as a main contributor. Lowry was staring down journeyman status as a bench scorer, a role nobody knows if he would have been willing to accept.
Fit is so key to success in the NBA. Get drafted to the wrong team or put in the wrong role and a talented player can quickly wash out or become jaded. That nearly happened to Lowry.
When he got to Toronto, and particularly after trading Rudy Gay, Dwane Casey put the ball in his hands and trusted him to let his talents go. It was a risk. The Raptors were still shopping him around even deep into last season. They caught lightning in a bottle and Lowry flourished. DeMar DeRozan did too. The Raptors won.
Lowry had finally found his fit.
So even with the Heat hunting for another star to pair with LeBron James and offering the promise of title contention, Lowry went with what was comfortable and what had worked. He had found an end to his journeying through the NBA and found his place.
Even if it takes a few years, every NBA player remains one of the best in the world. In the right situation, many can find success. Lowry accepted his role finally and is reaping the rewards.