While the rest of Toronto is still mourning Kawhi Leonard’s departure to the Los Angeles Clippers, it’s business as usual for Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry.
Lowry grew to appreciate and cherish Leonard after the superstar was acquired in a trade with the San Antonio Spurs for his long-time teammate and close friend, DeMar DeRozan.
Although everyone in the Raptors organization and the city would’ve loved to see Leonard stay, Lowry isn’t concerned, nor did he pitch the reigning Finals MVP to stay.
“Free agency is free agency,” Lowry said to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix. “I love when NBA players get paid. I love the decisions guys are making for their happiness. At the end of the day, you have to be happy for them.”
“[Leonard leaving] wasn’t a surprise. I’m always happy for guys, especially one that help me do something fantastic. He’s a friend of mine and a good guy. He made a decision to go home, I’m genuinely happy for him. He gets a chance to be around his family and friends, you have to respect the guy and be happy for him.”
Lowry mentioned that he hasn’t spoken to Raptors president Masai Ujiri about the team’s outlook for the upcoming season and reiterated that he’s happy for Leonard, calling him an “unbelievable friend.”
After Leonard left for the Clippers, the consensus was that the Raptors wouldn’t be able to defend their title in 2019-20, even though they should be expected to be a strong playoff team with its core, sans Leonard, returning this fall.
None of this changes Lowry’s outlook, however.
“It is what it is,” Lowry said. “We’re still going to be able to run it back. We’re the champions and we’re trying to defend our title. I’m confident with our team.”
“I don’t know. First time you have ever seen it. Who knows? We are the champions. No matter what, that will never be taken away from us. Never, ever.”
He’s not wrong, there. The 2019 title will live forever for the Raptors, and they should be a competitive team in a weakened Eastern Conference with only the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers standing as clear-cut superior opponents.
There’s a lot of random variation in professional sports, so it’s not unreasonable to see Lowry’s contention that a core of himself, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet could defend Larry O’B.
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