Kyle Lowry of the Houston Rockets drives toward the basket at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City

Kyle Lowry of the Houston Rockets drives toward the basket at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City

Raptors hope Lowry will help team achieve greatness again

As a young basketball fan in Philadelphia, Kyle Lowry watched his 76ers battle the Toronto Raptors in a thrilling seven-game Eastern Conference semifinal. Now the Raptors are hoping the 26-year-old point guard can bring them back to heights they haven’t seen in over a decade. Lowry was introduced along with another new acquisition, swingman Landry Fields, at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday.

TORONTO — As a young basketball fan in Philadelphia, Kyle Lowry watched his 76ers battle the Toronto Raptors in a thrilling seven-game Eastern Conference semifinal.

Now the Raptors are hoping the 26-year-old point guard can bring them back to heights they haven’t seen in over a decade.

Lowry was introduced along with another new acquisition, swingman Landry Fields, at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday.

Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said they are “giving the keys” to Lowry with hopes that he can become the cornerstone of a young, emerging team.

“This is a great opportunity for myself, for this team to grow, and being given the keys I think I can drive this car to (becoming) a playoff team,” Lowry said.

Lowry was acquired last week in a trade with the Houston Rockets that saw forward Gary Forbes and a protected future first-round draft choice go the other way.

“When I found out about the trade I actually went online and looked at the roster, looked at the YouTube clips of guys and I even got more excited seeing the opportunity and the talent that’s on this team,” Lowry said.

The Raptors haven’t been to the playoffs since the 2007-08 season, and haven’t progressed past the first round since that 2001 East semifinal against Philadelphia that Lowry called “one of the best series I’ve ever witnessed on TV, period.”

The six-year veteran may get them back there if he continues to improve. Lowry averaged a career-best 14.3 points to go along with 6.6 assists over 47 games with the Rockets last season.

He also showed toughness on defence and averaged 4.5 rebounds a game, putting him in the top 10 at his position.

“We’ve got a young, talented guard that is just coming into his prime,” Colangelo said.

“He’s performed at a top-10 level in the point-guard category the last couple of years, and I feel that given the opportunity to take over a team … and he has a chance to continue to grow in that position and continue to develop into an elite point guard.”

Lowry said he and Fields will help the team’s defensive makeover, something that head coach Dwane Casey started last season with promising results.

“I think the defence has gotten better instantly,” Lowry said. “We’ve got a big fella (rookie centre Jonas Valanciunas) coming over I think that helps, but … I really can’t wait to step on the floor with this team and see what T-dot’s all about.”

Fields, meanwhile, came to Toronto as a restricted free agent.

The Raptors signed him to an offer sheet believed to be worth around US$20 million over three years, and the Knicks declined to match.

“I was willing to go wherever,” Fields said. “I just wanted to be part of a winning team and whether it was here or New York I just wanted to give it my all.”

Fields saw his numbers decline in New York last season after a promising rookie campaign.

Still, he averaged 4.5 rebounds a game and Colangelo believes he will flourish in a system that stresses ball distribution, rather than in New York where superstar Carmelo Anthony needs a lot of touches.

“His on-court production, what I’ll call pre-Carmelo Anthony was a lot better than post-Carmelo Anthony,” Colangelo said. “And that’s not a shot at Carmelo by any means it’s just the roster composition was different, the flow of the offence was different and the outlook, including a coaching change, was different.”

Fields could play primarily at small forward, with James Johnson leaving via trade and with the Raptors already set at shooting guard with DeMar DeRozan. Wherever he plays, he will be counted on to provide offence and take some of the heat off DeRozan and high-scoring forward Andrea Bargnani.

“That was one of the main reasons why the Raptors were so enticing to me,” Fields said. “Not only can I come in and defend, but the opportunity offensively was right there.”

With the team rebuilding around Lowry, the future for point guard Jose Calderon is uncertain. Calderon is an excellent passer and makes few mistakes when he has the ball, but Lowry is a clear upgrade defensively at the position.

“We’ve got two starting-calibre point guards, and that’s not easy to find that kind of a combination,” Colangelo said. “Finding the chemistry around that is obviously something that takes some management.

“I know that Jose’s a professional. Having said that he’s not entirely thrilled with the situation but at the same time he’s a pro and I think he’ll show up and play.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott and his sister Melodie pose for a photo at the Mirror restaurant. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Alberta Health Services delivers ‘closure order’ to Mirror restaurant

Alberta Health Services says it has delivered a closure order to a… Continue reading

Flags bearers hold the Canadian flag high during the Flags of Remembrance ceremony in Sylvan Lake in this October file photo. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
New project to pay tribute to Canadians killed in Afghanistan

Flags of Remembrance scheduled for Sept. 11

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta… Continue reading

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to defend the country and continue its missions overseas amid concerns potential adversaries could try to take advantage of the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian special forces supported major Iraqi military assault on ISIL last month

OTTAWA — Some Canadian soldiers supported a major military offensive last month… Continue reading

A woman pays her repects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The joint public inquiry in response to the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced a mandate that includes a probe of the RCMP response as well as the role of gender-based violence in the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Creating permanent memorial to Nova Scotia mass shooting victims a delicate task

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — Creating a memorial for those killed in Nova Scotia’s… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who… Continue reading

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, second from left, celebrates his goal with teammates, from left to right, Matthew Tkachuk, Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, of Sweden, during second period NHL hockey action against the Edmonton Oilers, in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Jacob Markstrom earns shutout as Flames blank Oilers 5-0 in Battle of Alberta

CALGARY — It took Sean Monahan breaking out of his goal-scoring slump… Continue reading

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia's opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan's government, but they say Monday's throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province's economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s opposition parties acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented… Continue reading

A grizzly bear walks on a treadmill as Dr. Charles Robbins, right, offers treats as rewards at Washington State University's Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center in this undated handout photo. Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails like those commonly used by people, which can affect land management practices in wild areas, says an expert who has written a paper on their travel patterns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Anthony Carnahan *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Grizzly bears prefer walking on gentle slopes at a leisurely pace like humans: study

VANCOUVER — Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails… Continue reading

FILE - In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. Moderna said Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, its COVID-19 shot provides strong protection against the coronavirus that's surging in the U.S. and around the world. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
The COVID-19 wasteland: searching for clues to the pandemic in the sewers

OTTAWA — When Ottawa Public Health officials are trying to decide whether… Continue reading

Most Read