No Kawhi Leonard? OK. Though his departure undercut their title defense before it began, the Raptors can still enjoy a low-pressure honeymoon season full of familiar faces from the championship run. Everyone knew all along Leonard was a flight risk. Toronto fans can still cheer for a likely playoff team and continue to show appreciation for most of the championship group.
No Kyle Lowry? That would’ve been something else completely. He’s the greatest player in franchise history and a perfect symbol of Toronto’s perseverance. Nobody expected him to go anywhere with with another season left on his contract, not unless the Raptors were getting favorable assets to jumpstart their next era.
Yet, he apparently could’ve forced his way out before agreeing to a one-year, $31 million contract extension.
If the Raptors weren’t going to give him an extension, sources close to Lowry say, he was prepared to hold out and try and force a deal to a destination of his choosing rather than allow the club to control the timing.
It’s one thing to make noise during a negotiation about holding out and demanding a trade. It’s another to actually do it. We’ll never know whether Lowry would’ve followed through.
Still, the mere threat says something about Lowry’s future in Toronto. As beloved as he is there, he apparently doesn’t feel so attached he must stay – even right after a championship.
But Lowry’s extension still allows Toronto to trade him. In fact, it might make a trade even more palatable because other teams will get more than a rental.
For now, the Raptors keep a long-time fan favorite. That’ll make the banner-raising ceremony more meaningful. There’s clearly a limit on how far sentimentality will go, though.