The Toronto Raptors reached an agreement with their prized free-agent point guard, Kyle Lowry, on Wednesday, re-signing him to a new four-year, $48 million contract, as reported by Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
Lowry was instrumental to Toronto’s success during the 2013-2014 season, when the team won the Atlantic Division with a 48-34 record and made the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
While trying to build on that success was obviously the main reason the Raptors wanted to bring Lowry back, getting this deal done with one of the hottest free agents on the market also allows Toronto to send a message to the rest of the NBA that times are changing north of the border.
Despite playing in being one of the biggest cities in the NBA and having a large national following, the Raptors haven’t been able to develop a reputation of being a big-market team.
Instead, there are often stereotypes about Toronto not being a basketball town, NBA players not wanting to play in Canada and the Raptors being a farm team for the league’s bigger franchises.
These stereotypes have only been reinforced over the years as the team has lost several stars such as Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh to other teams due to various reasons.
This is why being able to keep Lowry—a player that high-profile teams like the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets were courting, per Wojnarowski—is such a huge moment for the team today. It effectively tells the rest of the league that Toronto is no longer content to let its top players get poached by other teams.
Going forward, the Raptors will need to string together successive winning seasons if they want to be truly respected as a basketball team. But not letting their top free agents walk is a very important first step for a franchise on the rise.