CA$H CON­CERNS

Rap­tors have a tough de­ci­sion to make about whether to pay Lowry, 33, big money

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - Ryan WOLSTAT

TOKYO — Kyle Lowry’s bas­ket­ball ca­reer will be re­mem­bered for his re­mark­able time with the Toronto Rap­tors, but the point guard has a his­tory with the Hous­ton Rock­ets too.

The Rap­tors will play the Rock­ets twice here in Ja­pan, giv­ing Lowry a chance to re­con­nect with some Hous­ton staffers, even if his play­ing sta­tus for the con­test is un­cer­tain fol­low­ing thumb surgery.

Lowry spent parts of four sea­sons in Texas, start­ing about half of the time and was en­cour­aged to de­velop his three-point shoot­ing and play-mak­ing, sta­ples of the all-around game which would make him a five-time all-star in Toronto, be­fore be­ing dealt to Toronto in July of 2012 for a fu­ture firstround pick. Lowry was the last ves­tige of the Bryan Colan­gelo Era on the cham­pi­onship squad and has turned in with­out ques­tion the finest ca­reer in Toronto by any Rap­tor. The move worked out for the Rock­ets too though, since the pick that came back (which turned out to be cen­tre Steven Adams) was a ma­jor part of the stun­ningly weak pack­age that pried su­per­star James Harden away from Ok­la­homa City.

Lowry has twice re-signed with the Rap­tors, but the 33-year-old’s fu­ture af­ter this sea­son is up in the air. Lowry made $5.75 mil­lion U.S. in his first year with the club, about dou­ble with his first ex­ten­sion, all the way up to $31.2 mil­lion in 2018-19. He’s re­warded the club all along, in­clud­ing with a strong play­offs and spec­tac­u­lar ti­tle-clinch­ing per­for­mance and has made it clear he would like to stay put on a rich new deal. There have been talks be­tween Toronto and Lowry’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives and team pres­i­dent Ma­sai Ujiri has said Lowry de­serves “le­gacy sta­tus” based on his years of con­tri­bu­tions to the or­ga­ni­za­tion, but Lowry oddly de­clined to come out with the team in Que­bec City for the open scrim­mage and no real ex­pla­na­tion was given.

Lowry is an in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter. He can be mis­chievous and at times seems to be fu­elled by drama. When he’s both­ered by some­thing, he’ll usu­ally let you know about it (some scribes have been put on time­out for a few days or weeks for per­ceived slights, be­fore all is even­tu­ally for­given). If he’s both­ered by the lack of a new deal, no­body is say­ing at this time.

“He’ll give me a headache once a month, but that’s fine. That’s our re­la­tion­ship. I re­ally re­spect him for that,” Ujiri said on me­dia day point­ing to their re­la­tion­ship, which in­cluded months with­out talk­ing last year fol­low­ing the trade of De­mar Derozan to San An­to­nio.

Those “headaches” aren’t re­ally the is­sue for the club though when it comes to de­cid­ing on con­trac­tual pa­ram­e­ters. Lowry will turn 34 in March and though his game is not based on ath­leti­cism, there will surely be some slip­page in the next few years. Lowry’s friend and men­tor Chauncey Billups is a de­cent com­pa­ra­ble here. Billups, also a five-time all­star, who emerged as a star like Lowry later in his ca­reer, made his last all-star ap­pear­ance at 33. Detroit moved him to Den­ver, de­spite his Fi­nals MVP le­gacy there, at age 32 and Billups was still very good un­til his age 36 sea­son, be­fore de­te­ri­o­rat­ing sig­nif­i­cantly at 37 be­fore re­tire­ment.

Toronto is clear­ing the decks to try to add a su­per­star or two to Pas­cal Si­akam and the young core in fu­ture sum­mers. Heir ap­par­ent Fred Van­vleet will also need a new deal in July and is eight years younger. Lowry de­serves his “le­gacy” sta­tus, but pay­ing him a ton down the line when he likely won’t be nearly the same player could im­pact the team’s flex­i­bil­ity quite a bit. Per­haps a nice com­pro­mise could be based on games played and pro­duc­tion?

No de­ci­sions need to be made im­mi­nently, but the longer it goes, the more po­ten­tial for dis­trac­tion.

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