Kyle Lowry has almost assuredly come to the end of his tenure with the Toronto Raptors. He has sold his home in Toronto, his contract expires at the end of this season, and Toronto management appears poised to reshape the roster in the summer of 2021.
Sunday is the final game of the Raptors’ season, vs. the Indiana Pacers, and whether Lowry plays or not, it may be his last game for Toronto. In a recent TorontoStar.com article, in response to rumors before the March 25th trade deadline, Lowry declared he wanted to retire as a Toronto Raptor.
Even if this doesn’t end up coming true, the Raptors need to give him a proper sendoff.
The Raptors should make Lowry’s No. 7 jersey the first one they retire. It should be hoisted to the rafters right beside banners for the 2019 Eastern Conference and NBA Finals Championship.
The organization has acquired talent that that is more talented and perhaps more exciting like Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, and DeMar DeRozan, all of whom are deserving of having their jerseys’ retired and honored by the Raptors. Despite all that, it is Lowry who should receive the honor first and foremost.
The Toronto Raptors could make big changes.
Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster have set about stockpiling cap space for this summer. At the moment, the Raptors are $13 million under a cap that is expected to be $111 million next season.
That cap flexibility rises to about $35 million if the team declines the team option on Aron Baynes and waives non-guaranteed contracts to Paul Watson, Rodney Hood, and DeAndre Bembry, Assuming the Raptors resign RFA Gary Trent Jr., that flexibility is only around $25 million.
With a frontcourt in disarray, yet bolstered by the signings of Freddie Gillespie and center Khem Birch as well as 2021 draft picks to add to the salary cap, a returning Lowry would have to come cheap.
Kyle Lowry deserves the honor in Toronto.
Lowry was acquired in a trade with the Houston Rockets in 2012 and is about to complete his ninth season playing for Toronto. He is the franchise’s longest-serving player.
He has been a fan favorite and is the heart and soul of the team. Lowry is the Raptors’ all-time leader in three-pointers made, steals, and assists with 4,277. He is top five in Raptors history in rebounds, points scored, and games played. Lowry also leads the franchise in playoff points (1,435) and assists (526).
The Raptors won the 2019 NBA Finals, and while Kawhi Leonard was the MVP of that series, Lowry is the undisputed leader of that franchise-defining season. Despite the team’s struggles this season, he has led the Raptors to seven consecutive playoff appearances and five straight 50-plus win seasons.
Lowry has only played in 46 games this season, but at age 35, he is averaging 17.2 points, 7.3 assists per game, and shooting the 3-point ball at 39.6%. He is aging like a fine wine and still playing basketball at a high level.
Even if Lowry leaves Toronto as a free agent, retires at season end, or returns in the future to retire as a Raptor, the Raptors organization should take the first opportunity to honor their greatest player at the Scotiabank Arena.
The Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies, who joined the NBA back in 1995, have never retired any of their players’ jerseys. Memphis does have plans to retire Marc Gasol’s No. 33, Zach Randolph’s No. 50, Mike Conley’s No. 11, and Tony Allen’s No. 9.
The Raptors have four players who should have their jersey numbers retired, but Kyle Lowry’s No. 7 should be honored first in Toronto.