An Open Letter To Kyle Lowry
An Open Letter To Kyle Lowry
Hey KL3 (can I call you that?), you have no reason to hang your head in shame. Seeing you lie there on your back looking defeated at the Air Canada Centre during your failed last second shot attempt was equal part depressing (your teammates could have played better than that) yet exhilarating. Given the tumultuous last few weeks of the NBA season we’ve all had to navigate and endure, as Raptors players, fans, enthusiasts, trust me, we all cringed as you took the ball to the hole in the waning seconds of Game 7 versus the Brooklyn Nets and came up a wee bit short. At the end of the day, your teammates didn’t bring their A-game, and it’s really tough playing catch-up for the duration of a game.
Sadly, given the nature of the business of basketball – and that’s exactly what it is, a business – you will not be given enough time to ponder what went wrong with your squad in the last two very winnable games against Brooklyn. There will be little time to lick your wounds, or to reflect on an otherwise fantastic season where you helped your team win the Atlantic Division in an otherwise uneven eastern conference. You’ve played on three teams in nine years, so you already know the post season routine. You know, the trades, the hiring and firings, the free agent flip flops, especially when things don’t work out exactly as planned.
And that’s why I had to reach out to you directly to help you figure out what might be a good move for you, moving forward. The reality is this. The questions as to where you will be playing next year will be coming fast and swift, given the fact that you’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer. You see, this city I was born in, has this really shaky history when dealing with free agency and A-list basketball talents like yourself. Brother, I’ve seen it all. From ex-Raptor guards like Damon Stoudamire putting up big numbers and then bailing to Memphis – where you and him eventually became teammates – to the high-flying Vince Carter taking his talents elsewhere to the Nets (when they were still in New Jersey) out of mere frustration with his teams managements handling of his situation, all the way to Chris Bosh – he of two-time back-to-back NBA Champs the Miami Heat – who ultimately had to take his talents to South Beach. In the end, it always felt like your team had no chance in hell of re-signing any of these talents on the verge of free agency. They just had to go, for greener pastures. For a chance to consistently go to the playoffs, and even win championships (SEE: Bosh). But I want to believe that you are different. You seem to get this city. Anyone with one-half of a basketball brain can see that you are the heart and soul of a franchise that was once considered heartless and soulless. We’ve blown a bunch of first round draft picks, including wasting an overall number one pick on Andrea Bargnani. Or you weren’t around when we had the eighth pick overall in 2004 and drafted a guy named Rafael Araújo who only lasted three years in the league. Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that next to your teams free agent and NBA draft history, there are other things that make our city look less than desirable – like our transit system. Kyle, you should park your high priced sports car, and one day take a ride with me across Eglinton, St. Clair Avenue or Queen Street West during rush hour. Trust me, it’s no fun. When you have rude bus drivers coupled with frustrated riders, it makes for an odd mix. Kinda like having you and Jose Calderon share the point guard duties.
Anyways, throughout the latter half of a long 82 game NBA season, you quite literally carried your team on your back. Sure, Demar (Derozan) provided the fuel (and the scoring numbers) to help keep the team playing at a high level, and arguably Amir Johnson was the engine of the team, showing up to play, night in and night out. But you were the heart of the franchise this year. You willed the team to victory. During some games that shall remain nameless, when some members of your team raised the white flag, that’s when you started to go. Hard. You showed that Philly scrappiness that has defined your career to date. You posted up guards who were up to eight inches taller than you, and showed them what a low post game could look like. You knocked down three pointers at will, especially during crunch time. You drove the ball to the basket with precision, and dished out good passes when you could (no one, including myself, views you as a pure point guard, but that all doesn’t matter right now). You jumped after countless loose balls. You went for steals. You dared to dream, like that rapper-cum-Raptors Global Ambassador who sits near your teams bench, a guy who helped convert the city into a reasonable destination to take one’s talents, despite your team being the lone franchise not located in the United States.
Real talk, the campaign Grammy-winning rapper Drake helped design was geared towards a guy like you. It’s about taking this underdog, off-the-radar- status – perfectly captured perfectly with the “We The North” sloganeering – and using it as a rallying cry to bring home some more wins, and eventual championships. You even signed a non-traditional sporting apparel deal with a Chinese sports manufacturer that few know about, but who you’ve helped get some better brand recognition in North America. Listen, I’ve never worn Peak shoes, I’m more of a Nike dude. But like you, I’ve never been afraid of taking calculated risks, and doing unconventional business deals, especially if the morality behind the product and the dough is right. But I digress.
Just before you start fielding offers from other teams who might be willing to pay you max money based on your season this year, there are a few things you might want to reflect on. Remember when your squad traded Rudy (Gay)? Many courtside pundits and players like you were starting to think that your season was now done. That your team was tanking the season in hopes of getting a high draft pick. In all honesty, I might’ve even tweeted something along those lines. But then the people who help drive this team, your new manager Masai Ujiri, and exceptional coach Dwane Casey, clearly had other ideas. And I gotta be honest dog. As the trade rumours swirled around you, I was getting nervous, as I’m sure you were. But you somehow managed to keep your composure and used the new management situation, and Gay trade, as an opportunity to take your game to a whole other level. You even put up a rare triple double versus the Minnesota Timberwolves, in a league where not too many players are multi-dimensional like that. Let’s be real, you should have gotten voted to play in the most recent NBA All-Star game, if it were all about players who impacts teams and games. Yeah, sure people have labelled you as a shoot first, think pass later point guard, but that should have nothing to do with how you dominate games. Carrying one-dimensional players on any roster these days is a recipe for disaster. It’s so 90s.
In the end, I just had to holler at you directly, to plead with you to not just go for the big free agent bucks, as some former Raptors have done, and might continue to do. Listen, I understand that some players have said they want to be back playing in the United States where they grew up and have lived their whole lives. To be back in cities where sports like curling and hockey don’t dominate the airwaves so much. I get that. Curling is not a sport I think of when I think about big cities and diversity. But just think about it for a second Kyle. In what other marketplace would you be given the keys to the city? The grass just might not be greener elsewhere. Sure, you might be getting slightly larger cheques, but you also may have to ultimately compete for more minutes on another team that might still view you as a tweener, not a true enough point guard to direct a team, and too undersized to be a shooting guard. Toronto residents know different. We’ve seen the truth. We know that when you set your mind to scoring, there’s no one stopping you on the court. It’s mind over matter, really. It’s what separates the greats, from the average. You carry that will to win in spades. So please stick around.
Drake needs you (and will hopefully convince you to stay in his own unique hip hoppy way). And coming from me, a long time armchair basketball critic who covered the Raptors inaugural season, and has witnessed all of the highs, lows and in-betweens of our franchise – and has never been afraid to call the kettle white, or for the team to get rid of failed former GM Bryan Colangelo – it’s time for you to throw down the gauntlet and deal. I’ll repeat what I said earlier. You are the heart and soul of this franchise. Don’t worry about me, I am quite easy to find and can be reached in the blogosphere near you. But there’s a large city also anxiously waiting to hear back from you.