And despite losing an All-Star partner for the second straight offseason, Lowry was thrilled for Leonard and his decision to return home to Los Angeles. While Leonard’s departure was a massive blow for Toronto, it didn’t change the way Lowry felt about what the Raptors accomplished by bringing Canada its first NBA title.
“No, not at all,” Lowry said emphatically. “Not at all. We are champions. No matter what. [It will] never be taken away from us. Ever. Ever, ever. Ever, ever.”
Following USA Basketball’s first training practice leading up to next month’s World Cup, Lowry talked about Leonard’s decision to leave the newly crowned NBA champions to join forces with Paul George. And despite the Raptors having to try to defend their crown without their NBA Finals MVP, Lowry said he would love to remain with the Raptors long term.
Lowry will be a free agent after this upcoming season and he recently hired Mark Bartelstein as his agent.
“I want to be there — I would love to do a long [term] extension, but we’ll see what happens,” Lowry said Monday when asked about wanting to remain a Raptor past his current contract. “I’m here for USA Basketball and support the guys and be around the group.”
“[But] I would love to be there long term, but we’ll have that discussion when the time is right.”
The Raptors also will have to consider an extension to Pascal Siakam‘s rookie contract. The NBA’s Most Improved Player is eligible for an extension before the start of the regular season or the forward becomes a restricted free agent.
“He going to get paid,” Lowry said when asked what it will be like to see younger players such as Siakam take on a bigger role with Leonard gone. “What else do you want to hear from me? He going to get paid … For a guy like that, you just got to keep improving and keep it going.”
Toronto hopes Siakam is ready to take another big leap forward after averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds, since the Raptors will have to defend the title without Leonard.
“I don’t know,” Lowry said of what it will be like for a champion to return without the reigning Finals MVP. “First time you ever seen it. Who knows?”
Lowry did not participate in USA’s first practice as he recovers from a procedure to repair a torn tendon in his left thumb a little over two weeks ago. Lowry played throughout the Raptors’ title run with the thumb injury to his non-shooting hand, and the point guard hopes to be able to play for the national team in the FIBA World Cup in China in September.
USA Basketball coach Gregg Popovich said the team will have to consider the possibility of carrying an extra point guard on the roster while Lowry recovers.
“It depends on the doctor,” Popovich said of Lowry’s availability. “He’s still in a hard cast. Sometime here soon he goes to the doctor and that will have a lot to do with the decision.”
As for the biggest decision in free agency last month, Lowry lost an All-Star and Finals MVP teammate, but he said he could not have been happier for his friend.
“I’m happy for you,” Lowry said of his reaction to Leonard’s news. “… I am happy for the guys that … especially a guy that helped do something fantastic and something great. He’s an unbelievable friend of mine and is a good guy. He made a decision to go home and he is happy with that and I am happy for him. Truly. I am genuinely happy for him. It gives him a chance to be around his family and friends. You got to respect the guy and be happy for him.”