LAS VEGAS - The Raptors made it pretty obvious at Tuesday’s introductory availability with the two newest members of the squad.
This is now Kyle Lowry’s team.
With apologies to Andrea Bargnani, Lowry, the point guard acquired from the Houston Rockets recently, is the closest thing the organization has to an all-star at the moment.
Not to mention, the combination of Lowry’s will, desire and the fact he’ll have the ball in his hands the most mean he is running the show.
“This off-season (we) had a few goals in mind, one, to address the future of the point guard position and I think we’ve done that,” Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said as Lowry and Landry Fields were unveiled in team colours for the first time.
“We’ve got a young, talented guard who is just coming into his own. He’s performed at a top 10 level in the point guard category the last couple of years and we feel that given the opportunity, given the chance to take over a team and be given the keys so to speak, he’s got a chance to continue to grow at that position and continue to grow into an elite point guard.”
Lowry, who Rockets general manager Daryl Morey last week called “an amazing player who engineered nearly all of our key victories for the past few years,” something you don’t usually hear execs who just sent someone elsewhere say, is more than up for the challenge.
“Given the keys, I think I can drive this car to a playoff team,” Lowry said.
Jose Calderon remains in Toronto, for the moment, Colangelo is still attempting to move him in the right deal, but Lowry and the Raptors know what the plan is.
“There will be competition across the board with this roster namely at the point guard spot assuming Jose comes back and that’s good, that’s healthy,” Colangelo said.
“Cream rises to the top, the strong survive and we’ll see how it all plays out.”
There’s little doubt Lowry exudes strength and toughness.
It’s part of the reason why, in the end, he will start and will engineer the offence while providing his traditionally solid defence.
Not a bellower or an attention-seeker, Lowry will lead by example.
The Philadelphia native maintains his career-best, injury interrupted 2011-12 season, one where he averaged 14.3 points and 6.6 assists per game, is only a starting point, with much more to come.
How much more?
“I don’t give myself a ceiling at all. I think I’m just going to keep growing, getting better every year. I believe in myself and I believe in my game and I believe in the work that I put in,” Lowry said.
“Every year, given the opportunity, I will produce. I’m not going to give myself a ceiling, I’m not going to give myself a cap. I’m going to be the best I can be and give it my all every single night.”
It has been a while since we have seen that kind of confidence in Toronto from an athlete that can back up the talk.
It’s refreshing and sorely needed.
Colangelo balked at Houston’s original asking price which was at least the No. 8 pick at last month’s draft. He waited and eventually got the deal he wanted, though it isn’t without risk.
The pick heading to Houston is protected to a point and for a number of years, but these sorts of trades have come back to bite franchises in the past.
Still, as long as the Rockets don’t eventually land a top 5 selection out of the deal, the Raptors likely come out quite well.
Lowry will do his part to make sure that happens.
FIELDS HAS BIG DREAMS
Kyle Lowry was Toronto’s marquee off-season acquisition, but Landry Fields could also play a prominent role going forward.
In the former New York Knick, the Raptors believe they have acquired a versatile player who will mesh well with the new roster.
“(Fields) will address multiple needs. Versatility, defending multiple positions and also scoring with good efficiency,” general manager Bryan Colangelo said on Tuesday.
Fields loved being a Knick but is excited about the next chapter in his career.
“(The) core group that is here is on its way up,” he said.
“Not only could I come in and defend, but the opportunity offensively was right there,” said Fields, referring to New York’s many eager-to- shoot stars.
He will have more of a chance to contribute in Toronto but will also have to try to justify the three-year, $19-million US contract he received.
Alan Anderson will be brought back by the club for the veteran’s minimum and will battle for playing time as he did down the stretch last season during an eye-opening run.
The 29-year-old guard/forward returned to the NBA after playing overseas and averaged 9.6 points per game while shooting 39% from three in 17 games with the Raptors.