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

Sylvan Lake beachgoers spark safety concerns

‘You’re putting your life at risk,’ tweets Rachel Notley

Conservatives call for Trudeau to testify at committee on WE Charity deal

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion is already investigating whether Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act

Beat the heat this summer with pop-up spray parks

Starting next week, spray parks will be popping up in neighbourhoods across… Continue reading

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Quebec police continue search for father, one day after missing girls found dead

Bodies were found in a wooded area of Quebec City suburb

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Canmore RCMP respond to multiple hiking injury calls this weekend

EMS and RCMP responded to three separate and unrelated hiking accidents in Kananaskis Country.

You can’t put a price on memories

Some people would rather buy something than sell something. Some people are… Continue reading

Masks and gloves: Elections Saskatchewan preparing for pandemic election

REGINA — Elections Saskatchewan estimates it will need 400,000 face masks and… Continue reading

Quebec police say they found 2 bodies in St-Apollinaire during search for 2 girls

SAINT-APOLLINAIRE, Que. — Quebec provincial police continue to search for the father… Continue reading

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA chief Don Fehr reflect on RTP, CBA deals

Gary Bettman and Don Fehr finally have a chance to catch their… Continue reading

NHL’s road to Edmonton and Toronto featured plenty of obstacles

Since early March, the novel coronavirus has affected almost every decision facing… Continue reading

Florida sets record week for coronavirus deaths

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida’s coronavirus death rate rose again Saturday, setting… Continue reading

Trump’s defiant help for Stone adds to tumult in Washington

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s intervention into a criminal case connected to… Continue reading

Most Read