SIMMONS: The coming of age of Kyle Lowry


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And he has left another impression on the game, on the NBA, even on those who coach him and don’t impress easily.

“I love having the privilege of standing on the sideline to watch (him),” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said of Lowry. “It is something to see. And I don’t ever take it for granted.

“I’ve said this before: I’ve never seen anybody play harder. I’m in total understanding of how much he means to our team. How nice is it from my perspective to able to coach this guy and have him.”

And in Nurse’s seven seasons in Toronto, two as head coach, five as assistant, he has seen what we’ve seen, but from far closer.

“There’s certainly been an evolution that we’ve all witnessed,” he said. “There’s a level of maturity that comes with age and experience. He just keeps getting better … His skills keep getting better … He has matured. There is no doubt about it.”

“There’s something about that guy I believe in, it’s incredible,” said Ujiri in last year’s playoff run. “We have been through so much and he’s a winner … He’s been hit upside the head from every different angle in the world, whether it’s personal, everything and he survives it. Every days he comes to win. Doesn’t matter what mood he’s in, he comes to win.”

And one piece of basketball irony that rarely gets mentioned in all the Lowry stories. The main reason Bryan Colangelo was fired as GM and Ujiri hired, more than anything else, was because then CEO Tim Leiweke couldn’t understand why any general manager of a downtrodden team would trade away a first round pick.

“Who does that?” Leiweke said to me years ago.

Colangelo did. He sent a first round pick to Memphis for Lowry. “You don’t trade away your first round pick,” Leiweke said.

That enraged Leiweke, who moved Colangelo aside and hired Ujiri, who all but and almost traded Lowry. The forks in the road that have made Lowry the most indispensable player in Raptors – and you could say modern Toronto sports – history.