Given the Toronto Raptors success over the past month and a half, there have been plenty of headlines to go with it. Among them are glowing reports of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry; a shift in philosophy regarding more ball movement and superior defense; and certainly, where this leads the Raptors as far as future and aspirations, most notably, how GM Masai Ujiri sees the success and how it fits into what seemed like a certain blowup plan a couple of months ago.
But what we have not touched on is how we think the players, most notably Kyle Lowry, are going to react to success from here on out. DeRozan has already spoken at length about how he had never made the playoffs, doesn’t know the feeling and will do anything to get there. Jonas Valanciunas doesn’t know success. Terrence Ross doesn’t know it either. This will be interesting to watch with expectations higher and more of a microscope on them.
For us, though, Kyle Lowry is going to be the man to watch. He is getting plenty of recognition as the main reason—with Rudy Gay’s departure—for the massive turnaround which will probably net the Raptors an Atlantic Division title and a high seed in the playoffs. Even in Friday night’s game at home against the Timberwolves, Lowry was receiving MVP chants at the end of the game. We can probably just chalk that up to an excited fan base that has been subject to painfully low expectations, but it is uncharted territory for a guy like Lowry, who has been questioned at every NBA stop.
But one has to wonder if this year will be different for someone like Lowry, who has been dogged throughout his NBA career as someone who was difficult to work with and temperamental. To us, the rest of this year will be the big test for Lowry, both in how he reacts to the success of his team as the leader and also the increased expectations on him.
There was a very good story from Ian Thomsen of CNNSI about Lowry and his transformation, detailing a preseason meeting from the powers-that-be in the Raptors organization where they sat Lowry down and told him that he had great potential, but there were certain things holding him back; the same ones that had been a pervasive presence his entire NBA career so far.
And he responded. Lowry claimed that be hearing how much people thought of him and what he could do, it really put things into perspective for him. He said that he really needed someone to put it all on the table for him, to put the sort of pressure on that he could either respond or be attached a label that he probably couldn’t shed. It was this blunt approach, combined with Lowry’s admission that now having a wife and child made him mature quickly, that coach Dwane Casey believes made all the difference.
But now, the way we see it, there is even more noise. Lowry is getting a lot of credit, certainly more than he has in his NBA career. Will he start to do too much, especially as an impending free agent who is looking to showcase himself?
Will he start being more demanding?
Maybe we are way off; we hope that we are. But color us concerned that Lowry is going to revert back to the old, difficult Lowry as pressure and expectation increase.
Patronizing MVP chants at the end of games versus sub .500 teams can’t be good for anyone. For right now, though, we sure can’t complain.