The man whom many have designated as the greatest Raptor of all-time will reportedly be locked up in the North throughout the 2020-2021 NBA season. For those who haven’t been keeping a close eye on the situation, the extension seems like a regularity, however, for those who have been following the pre-season drama, the news comes as a huge sigh of relief.
The not-so-meager saga began on media day last Saturday, and anyone knows Kyle Lowry also knows that he’s never been the type to be overly enthusiastic about anything. However, during a post-championship scrum, he seemed particularly disinterested in participating. When long-time Raptors journalist, Michael Grange asked Lowry about his upcoming free agency situation, he responded by saying, “It’s been a long time, I’ve been here the longest now. You know, I’ve been through the ups and the downs, I was able to help bring a championship here from a time that they were talking about tanking for certain players. So I’m not saying I’m the sole reason, but I feel like I have [been] a big part of it. You know, and [I’m] not really worried about the free agency thing… my representation have been talking to them about doing something, and nothing’s been, you know obviously not taken care of but it’s an ongoing conversation… for me it’s just going out here and doing my job like I always do, being a true professional, and leading the best I can like I’ve always done.”
Earlier tonight, these unconvincing words regarding his contract situation were cleared up by Grange. According to him, if the Raptors and Kyle Lowry had not reached an agreement on an extension, Lowry would have forced his way out of Toronto in a way that we’ve seen few disgruntled players do over the past couple years: including the likes of Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, and Jimmy Butler. Obviously, the “Raptors G.O.A.T.” demanding to play elsewhere wouldn’t be a great look for a franchise hoping to lure big name free agents in the coming years.
The uncertainty among fans only boiled up in the days following media day, after Lowry was held out of training camp despite being cleared to play after his thumb surgery, then announced that he would not play either of the first two pre-season games in Tokyo, then was the only player from the Raptors’ entire training camp roster whose name was not announced during the team’s public scrimmage at Laval University in Quebec, despite being in the building.
Obviously, these antics were unaligned with the second half of his media day quote: with all due respect to Kyle, he has not put his best foot forward thus far, nor led by example.
Even before free agency began, rumors were circulating over how the Raptors may look to shed some salary prior to the trade deadline by dumping one (or multiple) of Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, or Lowry. After this hefty extension, and at 33 years of age, Lowry’s trade value has likely depreciated, removing him from any potential trade scenarios.
While some may see the pricy extension as a “thank you” from Masai Ujiri to Kyle Lowry for his loyalty, it could also be perceived as a lump sum payment now so that he takes a paycut in the 2021 offseason when the free agency class projects to be loaded with talent.
An argument could be made that even if one could pick and choose any two players out of the 2020 free agency class to come play for the Raptors, they still wouldn’t be title favourites: that’s how weak the free agency class is. Conversely, the 2021 free agency class could be loaded with the likes of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Masai Ujiri’s big fish: Giannis Antetokounmpo.
No matter which way you see it, this contract is a win-win for both Kyle and the Raptors organization. The cap space that they’re giving up in 2020 could not have been spent on a more valuable player than Kyle, and it sets the payroll up perfectly to make a splash the following summer.
While it’s disturbing to know that Lowry may have wanted to dash out of our prideful concrete jungle, we’ll put that behind us as quickly as Masai and Kyle did with their feud last season. What’s important is that he’s under contract, he’s getting healthy, and he appears to be happy with his situation now.