Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan never made the NBA Finals as Toronto Raptors teammates, and DeRozan was traded to the San Antonio Spurs this offseason in the move that landed the Raptors Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
But Lowry told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that DeRozan has remained in contact with him and has sent his congratulations to his former teammates as they embark on an NBA Finals matchup against the Golden State Warriors.
"I've been speaking to him the whole way," Lowry said. "One thing about him is that he legit cares about me as his best friend. He has texted everyone he has a relationship with and let them know how happy he is for us."
Lowry said he always treated DeRozan's trade as a business decision and felt the need to prove to people he could still be professional and a top player without him:
"It was always still going to be a business. But I was like, 'Look, if you're going to be here, just buy in and do what you need to do to help the team win.' And that means a lot. I was bought-in from the [beginning]. But I kind of really shelled off. I was going to come in here and prove a point. People didn't think I could be the same player that I was."
While Lowry's scoring (14.2 ppg) dipped for a second straight season, he excelled as a playmaker (8.7 apg) and defensive bulldog from his point guard position. And he was fantastic for the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, averaging 19.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
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He'll need to continue that trend against the Warriors. While Leonard has performed like the league's best two-way superstar in the postseason (31.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.6 spg), the Raptors at times have struggled to get a second scorer going in these playoffs. If Lowry can consistently be that player, Toronto will be dangerous.
The Raptors will challenge the Warriors with lockdown defense and with Leonard's heroics. But Lowry is likely the key to the series, as he'll be tasked with slowing players like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson defensively while providing scoring and playmaking offensively.
When he's clicking, the Raptors are dangerous. With or without DeRozan.