Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment group that owns the Raptors, answered affirmatively when CBC TV host George Stroumboulopoulos asked him whether the team can and will re-sign point guard Kyle Lowry (video link; scroll ahead to 5:50 mark). The point guard is set to hit unrestricted free agency this summer, and ever since the team came close to trading him to the Knicks in December, there’s been little certainty about Toronto’s plans. Leiweke’s answers today offer the strongest indication yet that Toronto intends to retain Lowry.
“There’s a really special bond between [GM] Masai [Ujiri] and Kyle,” Leiweke said. “This town should be in love with this guy. What a great story. He’s vented that anger and energy that he had last year, and it was sometimes aimed at the refs, sometimes aimed at other people. He’s figured out how to vent that and put that into the team, and this team truly loves each other.”
When the Knicks made an unsuccessful attempt to circle back and trade for Lowry at the deadline, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports pegged Lowry’s market value at more than $11MM a year. The Rockets also sought a deadline deal for him, and it’s clear that the ASM Sports client will be one of the most sought-after free agents on the market this summer after a strong performance this season.
The Raptors have Lowry’s Bird rights and only about $39MM in commitments for next season, so they appear to have the resources necessary to bring him back. Still, Lowry can choose his destination, and Toronto has never been a free agent mecca. The 28-year-old is having his finest season, averaging 17.4 points and 7.6 assists per game with a 19.9 PER for a Toronto team tied for third place in the Eastern Conference. Just how far the Raptors get in the playoffs may go a long way in convincing Lowry whether to stay.