You know when you go to the store and buy a lottery ticket? You know that rush of excitement and hopefulness you get from the clerk handing it to you, while in your mind you’re thinking, This could be the one?
That’s what it felt like as a Raptor fan when Kyle Lowry re-signed with the Toronto Raptors for a 4-year $48 million deal. There was that rush of regaining him that meant so much more than it did the first time the Raptors acquired him in an offseason trade two summers ago. Now we know what he can do at the pinnacle of his basketball powers, what he can bring to this franchise that so desperately needs not only what he directly gives, but what he indirectly gives.
It’s true that Lowry is even better than the lottery ticket that he represents. The chances aren’t one-in-a-million that the Raptors will get what they want out of this deal because it offers more than a single way to win.
Think about it for a moment. Out of all of the big name players to wear a Toronto Raptors jersey, how many of them have been to Toronto, played there and then decided to come back knowing that a new contract will take up the rest of their prime?
Vince Carter didn’t. Chris Bosh didn’t.
Sure, Lowry isn’t as great of a player as those two. And he was never as big of a name as those two. But with the decision he made to come back to Toronto he accomplished something they were never able to do.
Give Toronto hope for the future in an assortment of ways.
1. The Immediate Future
Coming back means the Raptors have a good chance of retaining their Atlantic Division crown, as well as a top four seed in the Eastern Conference. They were already there last season and even with the East still in offseason flux, they look to be coming out in about the same spot at the end of the summer that they went in.
Masai Ujiri has already gone and made several moves. He drafted a project for the future in 18-year old Bruno Caboclo, drafted a back up small forward in DeAndre Daniels, brought back Tyler Hansbrough as the resident tough guy and swapped a lifeless John Salmons for sixth man Lou Williams and last season’s 16th overall pick in Lucas Nogueira.
Ujiri has only got dealing with Chuck Hayes and deciding what to do with Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez left as necessities, and with All-Star DeMar DeRozan as well as a budding Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross, things are looking pretty good in the tee-dot.
Bringing back their vocal leader is huge for Toronto’s next few seasons and will not only be sure to keep fans in the ACC’s seats, but hopefully show them something they’ve never seen before when it gets to playoff time.
2. The Further Off Future
What Lowry has done is the beginning of something in Toronto. Not just that he re-signed there, but that he wanted to do it. He had options. He had offers that were hard to resist.
Go back a couple seasons ago. How much harder would it have been to resist the offers from the Rockets and especially the Lakers?
Interestingly enough, those two teams in their current states show the two sides that players often debate themselves over signing with. There’s the team that has a strong roster including two All-Stars, that is winning even in a much tougher conference and looks to be title chasing every season for the next few years. Houston. Then there’s the team that has a couple aging superstars, lots of money to offer, hardly any other assets and is a storied franchise that players have a hard time resisting even when they know they’re going to be god-awful for the next few seasons. Los Angeles.
Luckily for Lowry, there was that third, rather rare option. The team that’s got an All-Star, young assets, a veteran coach, a fairly deep bench, future projects, a present and future window and that’s in the weaker East. Toronto.
And thus Lowry decided to stay. This is a good sign of things to come for the Raptors. There were two other franchises trying their best to steal Lowry away and they came up short to another that’s been a laughing stock for so many years.
Why did he do it? Because he sees something in Toronto that he couldn’t get in the other places. A good contract, a good team with players and a coach he likes and the potential to get back to the playoffs and take a playoff series for the first time since *Bosh was in town. Who’s to say that this won’t mean future players will do the same? They may look more seriously at why Lowry decided to stay and realize that they too want to continue pushing a now-winning franchise forward.
These are no longer the days of players being traded to the Raps and groaning or looking at them in the offseason and chuckling when thinking about potential landing spots. This isn’t your father’s Toronto Raptors.
3. The Franchise Itself
As mentioned above, the Raptors have been a laughing stock for so many years it has almost become unbearable for fans. So when they finally and unexpectedly rose to the challenge this season, people went ballistic.
Jurassic Park was born. We The North was born. DeMar DeRozan, All-Star, was born. In one fell swoop, the Raps managed to thrust aside their “We’re always gonna suck” connotation that was seemingly tattooed to every player’s jersey right below the tiny Canadian flag on the back collar.
Lowry re-signing was the final shove to shedding that connotation. It says strongly and proudly, “I want to be here, and you should too”. So few players have done that during Toronto’s existence that it’s almost shocking to see Lowry do so. But it’s a sign of a club that’s under a new era, ushered in partly by Lowry’s confidence that this is where he wants to be for the last part of the best part of his basketball career.
Suddenly, the Raptors Claw looks a lot more intimidating than it ever did before. The nails have finally been sharpened and are looking to carve the words “WE MEAN BUSINESS” into everyone else’s minds.
Just like a lottery ticket, Lowry has become a symbol of hope with this one seemingly simple decision that opens not only doors for himself, but doors for everyone else involved with the Raptors. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but eventually the risk will pay off and that feeling of adrenaline rushing through your veins will come to a boiling point as you look at that lottery ticket and think, This was the one.