To this day, my buddy Andy still gripes about the moment when the ESPN story broke about Kyle Lowry being traded to the Raptors, and I completely agree with him. The story itself featured less than a paragraph about Lowry and the potential impact he could have on the Raptor franchise, but rather focused more on the Rockets continued implosion and based on loose memory, mentioned the possibility of Dwight Howard and Jeremy Lin at some point further down. Trust me, as a Canadian basketball fan/enthusiast/writer, I pay attention to this stuff and so do the other fans.
So rather than be bitter about the lack of press that the trade for Lowry received south of the border, I think it’s important to capture the buzz being felt around Lowry’s arrival in Toronto and what it means to the always-loyal Raptors fan base.
I’m confident that many Raptor fans, once left seething at Brian Colangelo for the failure to land Steve Nash this offseason, are well beyond that drama now and ready to move on with their “Plan B” at point guard. Steve Nash is an eventual Hall of Famer and still an elite point guard, but to consider Lowry a “Plan B” is entirely wrong. Beyond his patriotic connection, would Nash have been an upgrade over Lowry anyway? Toronto will never know.
A young, very skilled guy that actually wants the keys to a continuously rebuilding Raptors franchise trying desperately to win basketball games and gain some slight relevancy in the league? Yes, please!
Beyond just basketball, Kyle Lowry represents a fresh start for the Raptors in 2012-13. With one year left and through layers of trade rumors, this will be the end of the Jose Calderon era as a starting point guard in Toronto. Even in his best season (2008-09), Calderon was at best an efficient player, garnering praise for his high percentage shooting and assist-to-turnover ratio. Raptors fans are ready for a change, a change of scenery. While Calderon will still be loved by fans, does anyone really think he’ll make it past the trade deadline? Nobody should expect Lowry to bring the efficient shooting (only .409% last season), but he will provide a new slashing excitement and quick, dynamic point guard play that hasn’t been experienced in T-Dot since perhaps the Damon Stoudamire days.
Another element to the Lowry repertoire is toughness. Raptor fans have had love affairs with their “tough, hustle guys” in the past. To name a few, Charles Oakley, Jerome Williams, Reggie Evans, Amir Johnson were all fan favorites because of their willingness to sacrifice their bodies to chase down loose balls and extend plays. At a time when Jose Calderon looks scared to death to drive to the rim anymore, Lowry brings that penetrating toughness as his actual strength. He certainly doesn’t mind the physical contact and often being labelled as an above-average defender at his position, he’s just as physical on that side of the ball. Lord knows, the Raps could use some additional defense at the 1-spot. It practically inevitable that this will become Lowry’s team and he will quickly establish himself as a fan favorite in Toronto.
As the Raptors open up the preseason tonight at the Air Canada Centre against Real Madrid (Lowry is questionable with a sore leg for tonight), a new hopeful, different kind of buzz will be in the air. One led by new and improved dynamic point guard play. This combination of slashing, scoring, toughness and solid defense is one that the Raptors have never experience from their floor general. Lowry is hope, potential and excitement… Raptors fans know this.