Lowry isn't going anywhere.
At least, he doesn't sound like he's going anywhere.
Tough to disagree.
Although Lowry will hit the open market in July, he's become the breathing symbol of this Raptors team. General manager Masai Ujiri doesn't want to hand him a "big-money contract" according to NBA.com's David Aldridge, but he may have no choice. Lowry has been that good and that important. Letting him walk would come as a huge blow.
But even if Lowry somehow prices himself out of Toronto's range this summer, the future is bright. He wasn't the only one touting the team's plans moving forward, after all.
Greivis Vasquez—who will enter restricted free agency this July—was Oklahoma City Thunder-type optimistic:
Vasquez: 'if we keep this team together we could be the OKC of the East. I believe that.'— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) May 5, 2014
One day later, Lowry was also still waxing his allegiance to Toronto:
Lowry on DeRozan: He’s my brother … I love him. I love the team.— Holly MacKenzie (@stackmack) May 5, 2014
DeMar DeRozan even tried to quell Lowry's free-agency speculation before it started:
DeMar worried about Lowry hitting FA: "No. No. No. No." Why not? "Because."— Eric Koreen (@ekoreen) May 5, 2014
None of this is surprising.
This Raptors team served a greater purpose that wasn't measured in the standings. It wasn't in their ability to finish third in the Eastern Conference despite unloading Rudy Gay. It wasn't seen in the balanced attack that allowed them to rank in the top 10 of both offensive and defensive efficiency.
It wasn't even in the wherewithal they displayed pushing a veteran Nets team to a Game 7 that came down to one heart-pumping possession.
Unlike Raptors teams of the past—Chris Bosh's tenure included—this group granted the Raptors exposure they've never had.
Fans and pundits outside Canada bore witness to Toronto's appeal. It is a basketball town overrun with diehards prepared to support and celebrate their team. As Sportsnet's Michael Grange put it:
What was going on outside echoed the feeling within a team that had toddlers going to daycare together, six first-time fathers and featured 25 kids under seven among the players, coaching staff and executive.
. . .
By the time the ball went up for Game 7 the city’s sports wallflower was front-and-centre, taking bows, the beau of a ball that had national interest. Given the Raptors scarcity of time-stands-still moments in their 19-year history, someone would be lucky to have the chance to be part of something bigger than a single win or a single loss.
Other teams and players are going to take notice. Some of them already have.
By series end, not even the ruthless Kevin Garnett could resist showering praise upon Toronto—unprompted, I might add:
This is how unprompted KG was when praising Raptors and their fans. Questions were completely unrelated. pic.twitter.com/4UekznUyDz— devin kharpertian (@uuords) May 5, 2014
Whatever happens from here, the word is out: Toronto is a marquee destination. It's a place where fans are resoundingly loyal, players thrive and winning teams can be built.
“No one picked us to make it this far, to win this many games,” said DeRozan after Game 7, via Grange.
They most certainly didn't. The Raptors were a blatant tank job. They were irrelevant.
Yet here they are now, oozing relevance, their wheels turning even in defeat, fully aware this season was only the start of something better.