The Toronto Raptors’ last few months have been quite hectic. After having the best record in the Eastern Conference during the 2017-18 regular season, the team was swept from the playoffs and went through some huge changes. Out went head coach Dwane Casey and star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, which led to assistant coach Nick Nurse getting promoted and Kawhi Leonard coming to Toronto. Even at the trade deadline, the Raptors — sitting one game back of the Milwaukee Bucks for the best record in the league — went for broke, making a move for veteran big man Marc Gasol.
Through all of this, Kyle Lowry has served as Toronto’s leader en route to his fifth All-Star selection in a row. Despite missing a handful of games due to injury and some struggles to find his shot, Lowry’s 14.3 points and career high 9.2 assists per game helped propel him to a spot on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s All-Star squad. Through a season of change north of the border, Lowry has done what he does, serving as one of the league’s best floor generals for a team with championship aspirations.
We spoke with the Raptors point guard at the adidas NBA All-Star suite about the tumultuous season in Toronto, namely how he approaches being a leader amid all the chaos. We also chatted a bit about some of his teammates, and of course, his beloved Philadelphia Eagles.
I think with you there’s only one place to start: [Carson] Wentz or [Nick] Foles?
[laughs] I’m going with Wentz. I think he’s just coming off the ACL year and everything and trying to rush and he’s a bit rusty. I’d definitely go with Wentz.
We’re asking dudes about being a young point guard in the league. What are the biggest adjustments that rookie point guards have to make when they do that jump from college to the NBA?
Understand how to deal with people. Understand that they’re grown men. They’re other individuals who have had success before them. I think just being able to be confident in themselves.
You’re an interesting dude in that you’ve bounced around a few times before getting to Toronto and really settling and breaking out there, and we’ve seen that this year with D’Angelo Russell. How much of being a point guard and being able to succeed is just being in the right fit in terms of team and a city, and all that?
I think that’s all about it. I think when you’re given opportunities, you’ve got to take advantage of it. In the case of Russell, he just … he’s young. He’s still only 22 years old, and he’s just still figuring it out. The coach just gave him the confidence to be great and to keep continuing to grow, and I think that’s a big part about just being a young point guard, is that you’ve got to be able to be willing to learn and understand that you’re going to have some failure. But you’ve got to keep continuing to work and build on and bounce off of.
I’ve heard from a bunch of dudes that slowing down as your rookie year goes down is a big thing that happens. When you’re running the point, how big is that flip switching and how much more do you see when the game really slows down and starts to come to you?
Yeah, you see a lot more. You know, it’s kind of hard as a rookie to slow it down as much, I think as you get a lot older is when the game really slows down. But I think as the year goes on, the more comfortable you get, the more experience you get, the better off you are.
Obviously, you’re always bummed when you see guys like Jonas Valanciunas and Delon Wright get traded, but how stoked were you when you got a guy in Marc Gasol that you know and you played with before?
You got a guy that is really talented, he’s an All-NBA player, he’s a Defensive Player of the Year type of guy. He gives you a lot of different aspects of the game he’s going to bring, and he’s going to be real good for us.
So this season, it’s been fascinating with how much turnover there’s been. As the leader of the team, how do you keep the young dudes focused when you get something like a big trade or a coach getting fired?
You stay focused. They follow your leaders, and they know. If you’re focused, they’re going to be focused. So it’s not about the distractions, it’s about making sure you keep everything tight and turned.
And how did you do that? What was big for you?
Just going out there and do my job. My job is to play basketball and be the strong type of person that I am.
So Kawhi comes in, a bunch of young dudes take these big steps forward. The team looks like a contender. Do you guys talk about getting a ring? Or is it one day at a time, things will take care of itself?
You know what the goal is, you’ve got to get there. Your goal is to win a ring, and it takes steps but you know what the end goal is. So it’s easy to talk about.
The guy in Toronto who fascinates me so much is Pascal [Siakam], because I don’t think anyone saw him becoming this good this early in his career. Did this catch you by surprise?
No, the kid works hard. He started to have a big … His rookie year he had a lot of games, he had some steps, and then the second year, he played really well off the bench, but he didn’t get the notoriety because that second year, it was such a great unit. Then now, he’s taken an even bigger step because there’s a lot more space for him on the floor and things that have just been coming easy, he’s always having a mismatch.
Yeah, it’s weird because it seems like every time you watch him play, just like some new skill that he’s developing.
His shooting, dribbling, handling, finishing. It’s all type of things. The kid works hard.
Is that ultimately what it comes down to? How much work you put in?
How much you want it. How much you want it.
So Kyle Lowry, you’re a bit of a mystery off the court. What do you like to do when you’re not just kicking it at home?
I’m a mystery off the court. Hanging with my family and my friends and just stay out of the way.
You’re an All Star game veteran at this point. Does this stuff, just being here, ever get old or repetitive?
Nope, it’s always great. Always good to be here and see your friends, fellow competitors. Take a break from being enemies to going out there and being competitors together and teammates.
Yeah, get a chance to clown on DeMar a little bit more?
Nah, no, no.
So what are you going to be rocking on your feet this weekend?
Marquee Boosts. I can’t wait, I’m excited to have them on there and it’s going to be a good weekend.
Anything with a little special twitch you got going for the game with those?