Kyle Lowry Opens Up on Kawhi Leonard's Exit, Possible Raptors Contract Extension

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2019

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 13: Kawhi Leonard #2 reacts with Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors after defeating the Golden State Warriors in Game Six of the NBA Finals on June 13, 2019 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Kawhi Leonard's decision to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers didn't impact the bond he and Kyle Lowry built as the Toronto Raptors won their first NBA championship.

Lowry told Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix he messaged with Leonard throughout the offseason prior to Leonard making his final decision, and he understood why the 2019 Finals MVP chose the Clippers:

"[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."

Aside from Leonard and Danny Green, who signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Raptors are basically rolling with last year's team as they look to defend their NBA title.

This time next summer, though, Toronto could look very different.

Lowry is an unrestricted free agent along with Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet and Marc Gasol. The five-time All-Star said he's open to stay north of the border: "I want to be there. I would love to do an extension, but we'll see what happens ... I would love to be there long term. We'll have the discussion when the time is right."

If recent history is any indicator, president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri will put sentiment aside when the time comes to either extend Lowry or let him leave as a free agent. Ujiri traded away a fan favorite in DeMar DeRozan in order to land Leonard, which worked out pretty well.

Rather than relying on the aging trio Lowry (33), Gasol (34) and Ibaka (29), Ujiri could look to use the Raptors' financial flexibility to build around VanVleet (25) and Pascal Siakam (25), who's a restricted free agent in 2020.

No matter what happens with Lowry, the 33-year-old has arguably cemented himself as the best player in franchise history.