Lowry making voice heard at Raptors camp
HALIFAX — A day into Toronto Raptors training camp and Kyle Lowry is already barking at his teammates.
And as his friend, mentor and former Raptors point guard Alvin Williams tells it, they haven’t heard anything yet.
It’s the part of his personality that attracted the Raptors when they acquired Lowry in the off-season, a measure of toughness coupled with sky-high confidence not recently seen around the Air Canada Centre.
The point guard, who could supplant Jose Calderon in the starting spot, isn’t yet in full voice as he adjusts to a new team. But Williams said it’s only a matter of time.
“Jose, when he’s been running the show, is a very good point guard, so Kyle has to find his way in,” Williams said on Day 1 of Raptors training camp at the Canada Games Centre. “He’ll pick and choose when to push people and when not to push people.
“In enough time, he’ll be in everyone’s faces.”
Williams has seen Lowry get in a few faces. The two — both Philadelphia natives and Villanova products — met when Lowry was a senior in high school, and grew to be friends over the years.
“I like being there for him, I like when he asks me questions and stuff like that,” said Williams, now a Raptors scout. “He’s developed into a nice young man. It’s kind of like a big brother type of relationship, but I would look at it more like he’s a friend.”
Lowry was a 76ers fan in 2001 when Williams played a key role in the Raptors’ second-round playoff series against a Philly team led by Allen Iverson.
“I remember all of it, I still bust his chops about Iverson,” Lowry said.
“He was a little baby then, he doesn’t know anything,” scoffed Williams.
The two had their share of scraps over the years. They butted heads as teammates in summer leagues. Lowry would sometimes stomp away from the bench in anger.
“He has a strong will, and that could be one of his weaknesses, but that’s also one of his biggest strengths, is his determination,” Williams said.
The Raptors acquired Lowry, whom general manager Bryan Colangelo described as a “bulldog,” from Houston in the off-season for a protected first-round draft pick and swingman Gary Forbes.
How the Raptors will divvy up the point guard position between the newcomer and Calderon remains to be seen, and will be one of the most intriguing storylines as the pre-season plays out.
Lowry averaged 14.3 and 6.6 assists in 47 games with the Rockets last season, but was sidelined for 15 games with a bacterial infection. He was also at odds with coach Kevin McHale toward the end of his tenure there.
Tuesday morning, Lowry was among the first players at the gym, arriving at 8:15 a.m. for a 10 a.m. practice.
“That’s my routine to get up early in the morning, I try to get there over an hour, hour-and-a-half before everyone else,” said Lowry, who credits his work ethic to his mom Marie Holloway, saying she was the biggest influence on his basketball career.
Williams said the six-foot, 205-pound guard carries a chip on his shoulder, calling him a “throwback player” who relies on hard work, and “very determined young man” who plays like it.
“He’s an undersized guy but he plays big, he tries to rebound, he tries to block shots, he tries to do everything, like a Napoleon complex,” Williams said, with a laugh. “He brings a determination and a desire to play hard all the time.
“If you asked around the NBA, the top-notch guards, they know who he is because every night he’s going to bring that intensity.”
Practices have already been intense, whether it was the informal sessions held over the past two weeks or Monday’s opening day of camp.
The Raptors plan to play a faster pace than last season. There will be little walking the ball up the floor.