Storyline: Kyle Lowry Free Agency

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Kyle Lowry staying in Toronto

Kyle Lowry: But for me, at the end of the day, this was an easy decision. And all of those roads … they all led me back to the same place: home. They all led me back to Toronto. When I got here, five years ago, there was a lot of rebuilding talk. A lot of, Man, this roster, I don’t know … the Raptors gotta blow it up. These experts, I think they wanted us to trade this, waive that, tank this, draft that. That was most of the talk surrounding our franchise. And I was definitely one of the names being included in that talk.

Kyle Lowry: I’m coming back to Toronto because my heart is telling me that it’s home — and because staying home, for me and my family, feels like the right thing to do. My heart is telling me that this is the best city in the world, with the best basketball fans in the world. It’s telling me that the Raptors can be a championship-level team, sooner than later. And I’ll be honest (and don’t hate) — it’s telling me that I’ve still never had poutine.

DeMar DeRozan has made it clear that he won’t try to influence the free-agency decision of friend and All-Star backcourt mate, Kyle Lowry, but the All-NBA shooting guard does have one request for Lowry – just give him a heads up first. “As long as he tells me, and I don’t have to read it, I’m completely fine with it,” DeRozan told theScore on Wednesday, when asked how he’d react to the worst-case scenario of Lowry departing Toronto. “If he comes to me as a man and tells me it’s time to move on, I’ll respect it. It’s just the choices in life we have to deal with. You’re kind of more accepting when somebody close to you like that tells you before they do something, so you’re not surprised just like everybody else. As a friend – me calling myself his friend – I have to just respect it.”

That said, the Raptors don’t want to use more resources than required. They have sent signals in the past that they are reluctant to offer a guaranteed fifth year to a point guard who will turn 32 next season and would prefer to avoid a fully-vested fourth year. “It’s a smart move,” said one player agent. “It means they don’t have to bid against themselves.” “Maybe he gets out there and finds out there’s not a better deal for him,” says another.

I’ll sneak in one Raptors question while we’re on the subject. With Kyle Lowry going into free agency, will you recruit him? DeMar DeRozan: Last go around when he was up for free agency, I never once called him and said what he should do. He’d tell you himself. I’ll take the same approach. At the end of the day, he has to make the right decision for himself and his family. No matter how close we are, I never fool with that part of it. When you have a family and that dynamic comes into play, you have to do what’s best for you. He has to be able to live with whatever decision he makes, and as a friend I just have to support him.

“He’s been a part of our organization, and he says he wants to come back,” Ujiri told the media Tuesday morning. “I know, speculation … with the article. We all have ups and downs. There are times when he’s been down, and there are times when we are down. It happens to every team, every player. People go through it. “I know what Kyle has told me. Kyle has been here working out – he actually just left – so I know what he has been telling me. I can only believe what he tells me, not the famous ‘sources.'”

Appearing on the 97.5 Midday Show, ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst continued to stoke the Lowry to Philly fire, calling the scenario “in play” (h/t Liberty Ballers): I think it’s in play. I think the Sixers are interested, I would think it would take a max-level contract. I don’t know how Bryan Colangelo feels about paying a 31-year-old a max-level contract, and they’ve also declared that Ben Simmons is going to be their guy. That could be a marriage where you bring Ben along with Kyle, and then by the time Kyle is ready to transition to a more backup role, maybe Ben could be ready, or maybe they want to go with Ben right away. That’s things they haven’t made public yet and I understand why they haven’t.

The morning after the Raptors’ season ended in a four-game sweep by the Cleveland Cavaliers, DeRozan said he hasn’t thought much about Lowry’s future with the team. “I never looked at it or tried to put it into perspective, what it would be like without him,” DeRozan said. “It’s going to be a decision on him that he’s going to have to make, and I support him 100 per cent. “We gained something that goes way beyond basketball, so that’s why when it comes to things like this, I don’t put the pressure on him, or I don’t say: do this, do that. He’s got to make the decision, as a friend I’ve got to be there to support him.”

Lowry has not been definitive in discussing his impending free agency—at the All-Star game, he would only say that staying in Toronto, “would be an option.” The wrist injury that will keep him out for the rest of the regular season is a tough blow, especially because the Raptors’ future prospects will be part of Lowry’s free-agent decision. If the team stumbles in the early portion of the postseason, Lowry would be more willing to sacrifice the financial advantage the Raptors can offer to explore the market. Lowry was very interested in signing with the Lakers in 2014, but was scared off by the lack of a direction in L.A. That’s changed, and even with D’Angelo Russell in place, Lowry is expected to be a Laker target. Lowry’s hometown Sixers, badly in need of a point guard, figure to be in the mix, too. An outside contender: the Nuggets, who are expected to be aggressive in free agency this summer.

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