Kyle Lowry is infamously difficult to manage.
He clashed with Jay Wright at Villanova before turning pro. He wore out his welcome in Memphis, and he had problems in Houston, too.
Even in Toronto – where Lowry has found his most success – the arrangement nearly failed from the jump.
Lowry, via Jonathan Abrams of Grantland:
“I didn’t want to get traded,” Lowry said. “I knew [Toronto was] trying to get Steve Nash. This is what they said: They wanted Steve Nash to be the point guard for two years and then me learn behind Nash and to get paid and be the starter after Steve called it a career. I said, ‘No, I don’t want to be a backup. You’re not trading for me to be a backup.’ They did the trade anyway, but they didn’t get Steve.”
Nash went to the Lakers, but Lowry still didn’t immediately become Toronto’s full-time starter, splitting the role with Jose Calderon. After the Raptors made a poor first impression on Lowry, he wasn’t giving the franchise the benefit of the doubt.
Lowry decided that he would be a part of the team, but he would keep his distance from the organization. “You all want me to be this guy?” Lowry said of his mind-set. “You guys traded a first-round pick for me to be this guy that sits on the bench, that plays fifteen, twenty minutes? I was not happy.
“It was part because I knew what I just came from being, which was almost an All-Star in Houston until I got sick and got hurt. I went from being almost an All-Star to back on the bench,” he said. “I was not a bad teammate. I was just really in a world of my own. I was just like, All right, I’m going to go to work. That’s all I’m going to do. I’m not going to fraternize. I’m going to go to work, come home, that’s it. Because it wasn’t my team. I was a role player.”
What would he have said back then about his chances of re-signing in Toronto? “I’d tell you, ‘You can kiss my ass,’” Lowry recalled. “I never thought I’d be back. Put it like this: I thought, I’ll do my two-year bid and I’m gone. That was it.”
Toronto traded Calderon to get Rudy Gay, elevating Lowry’s role. When the Raptors flipped Gay to Sacramento, Lowry became the team’s unquestioned leader and really took off.
Lowry led Toronto to 48 wins, and he should have been an All-Star. It seemed as if he’d found a home, and the Raptors were definitely better off with Lowry than they would have been with an over-the-hill Nash.
“I was very open to leaving,” Lowry said. “I was like: Look, I have a chance to go somewhere else, why not look at it? … I did my pros and cons. I did my lists. I did my research. I did the, what the salary cap is two years from now, three years from now. I knew who was going to be a free agent. I wanted to make sure I was going to the best situation for me personally, but to also try to win as much as I possibly can.”
Eventually, Lowry re-signed with Toronto for $48 million over four years. It was the type of respect Lowry has been seeking for so long.
Lowry’s proud and stubborn nature rubbed people the wrong way every way he’s been, including Toronto. Multiple times, his relationship with the Raptors could have fallen apart.
But there was always just enough there to keep going.
Lowry has matured, and his trust issues – which Abrams explores in this really good piece – might still remain. But Lowry and the Raptors have already put each other through quite a bit, and they’ve come out on the other side. Both are better off for it.
In early 2009, Lionel Hollins was named the team’s head coach and Lowry was told that the team would devote the starter’s minutes to Conley. Lowry was unhappy with his role, and some in the organization considered him a bad influence on the roster, a description that still upsets him. “Lionel didn’t say shit to me,” Lowry said. “It was crazy. I’m twenty-two, twenty-three years old. How am I a bad influence on guys who are older? I just wanted to play basketball … I’m not trying to be on somebody’s bad side. But I think Lionel just needed a scapegoat and I was the young guy and I had a little bit of an attitude. Who wouldn’t have an attitude who’s trying to play? You’re not even giving me a chance to play.”