View Full Version : Woj: How Kyle Lowry transformed the Raptors and became one of the NBA's top PG's

03-20-2014, 04:08 AM

http://l2.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/LQjvzxuQwXmRLS3..Rn7uw--/YXBwaWQ9eW5ld3M7Zmk9ZmlsbDtoPTY3MztweW9mZj0wO3E9Nz U7dz05NjA-/http://media.zenfs.com/en_US/Sports/USA_Today/20140131_jcd_aq2_299-8f5ed4a79178ee9bf80206d654877d50

[QUOTE]They were sitting in the 17th floor's corner office, long glass windows offering a majestic cityscape, and Kyle Lowry listened to a most mild-mannered man raise his voice louder and louder. Masai Ujiri, the Toronto Raptors president and general manager, was hired with a mandate to transform this franchise, and he understood nothing could speed the process faster than the point guard transforming himself.

So on the eve of training camp, something irritated Ujiri, and this episode promised to be the final conversation these two would ever have on the matter of Lowry's maturation. All this talent, all these disappointments, and Ujiri had a determination to speak his mind and leave Lowry to make the choices that promised to dictate his future with the Raptors.

Ujiri climbed out of his seat, marched across the room, lifted a binder from his desk and pretended to pass it into imaginary hands. Someday, Ujiri told him, this will be you walking up to NBA general managers at the Chicago predraft camp, trying to get a scouting job. They'll want no part of you, no part of your reputation. Ujiri told Lowry he'd be playing out his career on one-year deals on the low end of the NBA's salary scale.

Once and for all, Masai Ujiri told Kyle Lowry the truth.

Oh, how Ujiri loves Lowry's game

03-20-2014, 04:09 AM
Through the tribulations playing out in public and private, one thing never changed in those three seasons in Houston: Lowry was such a student of his craft. Perhaps people never saw it with him, but it's always been true. In Houston, he became a devoted pupil of the analytics movement. He watched Shane Battier's habits so closely and still incorporates those lessons into his regimen.

"His preparation for every game is some of the best I've ever seen," Lowry says of Battier.

Always, too, Lowry loved sitting with GM Daryl Morey and his old assistant, Sam Hinkie, poring over the data revolution that had seeped into the basketball world.

"I guess I was a great analytics player before I even knew what it was," Lowry says with a laugh. "The things they emphasized – free throws, 3-pointers, layups – were things that were a big part of my game. You can really help yourself if you understand analytics. Not sure you can pick the best team in the world by just using it, but it helps. There's no doubt in my mind."

Morey and McHale still felt strongly about Lowry and his talent, and made a bid at the trade deadline to bring him back to the Rockets, league sources said.

Looking back, the unraveling under McHale still festers with Lowry. He wishes he had been smarter, surer of himself, less combative in carving out his turf in the NBA. He wishes he had grown up sooner. For Lowry, reaching peace with these revelations gave him the chance to change everything with the Raptors.

"I would have done things differently in Houston," Lowry says. "I really respected Kevin McHale. I wish I would have had an opportunity to play for him longer. The things he was teaching me, well, I didn't understand right away. When you get away from someone, though, see it from the outside looking in, you go back and think, 'Damn, I could've learned some more things from the guy.'

"I wanted to stay with Coach Adelman and needed to get over that. [McHale] came in with a different philosophy, and I wish I could've adapted to it quicker."

Months later, after a trade to the Raptors, Lowry was sitting in a mid-April exit meeting with Raptors executives Bryan Colangelo and Ed Stefanski, and coach Dwane Casey. With Jose Calderon gone for good, Colangelo laid it out to Lowry in simple terms: Can you play for Casey?

Do you have any issues?

"I'll play my ass off for him," Lowry said.

For the first time in years, Lowry had a summer that didn't include rehabilitation for an injury, and everyone agreed: He had to come back in fantastic shape, strong of body and mind – no excuses.

And when Lowry returned to training camp in September, Casey witnessed the difference. Casey could see how he had transformed physically. Lowry was stronger, leaner and exuding the body of a true pro. And then, Casey witnessed it on the court – no more gambling on defense, no more taking off possessions to gather his wind. Lowry had listened to Billups and Miller, who implored him to hire a personal chef and change his nutrition habits.

The results helped transform the Raptors and transform Lowry's career. Once he had taken care of himself, it became so much easier to evolve as a leader. For the Raptors, this has been the most profound difference: how Lowry interacts with his teammates; how he leads them every practice, every game.

Lowry would blow up players with long, loud diatribes, stay far too long on them for a mistake that had come and gone. And yet once Lowry found peace with himself, it channeled into the Raptors.

"When Kyle first came, he was a live wire," Raptors forward DeMar DeRozan told Yahoo Sports. "That's just him. But to see the patience in him come out – with everybody – I think that's been key to us winning."

Fatherhood changed so much for Lowry. He's married to his childhood sweetheart, Ayahna, a 1,600-point career scorer at St. Joseph's University who understands the game's ups and downs. What's more, the birth of his 2-year-old son Karter has made those nights of bringing home his frustrations merely memories. At day's end, he sees that young boy reaching out to him, and it all washes away. Lowry isn't a father, he says. "I'm a daddy." His own father was never in his life, but Lowry reads books and plays games and takes a bundled Karter for walks in the Toronto cold.

"You can't take your problems from your job home, because you will really impact your life there," Lowry says. "I can't be mad at something that happened two games ago and take it into the next day. Now, it's over. If I get mad at [Jonas Valanciunas] or get into it with DeMar, man it's got to be over.

"And once you learn to do that with yourself, you can do it with others. I'm my own toughest critic, but I've learned to let it go and try again tomorrow. And that's helped me with the rest of the guys, too."

For a coach fighting for his job this year, the dynamic with Lowry promised to be telltale to Casey's survival. For Lowry and the Raptors, Casey's been a perfect leader at a perfect time. In his years as an assistant coach with the Seattle SuperSonics, Casey had closely studied the relationship between George Karl and Gary Payton. For Casey, this has been indispensable in learning to create a partnership with Lowry.

"Kyle's delivery, his approach, reminds me so much of G.P.," Casey says. "Guys would make a mistake and Gary would drop a few F-bombs and lay into them. What Gary was saying was true – the content was great – but guys couldn't get past the delivery."

A year ago, there were times Lowry would become so incensed with the young Lithuanian center, Valanciunas, that "it would take Kyle right out of what he was trying to do himself on the court. The thing was, Kyle would be screaming and I don't think J.V. understood what he was saying half the time anyway.

"But now Kyle's learned to relate to players, to say it in a tone that's accepting. That's been his growth process, our growth process."

On an early March afternoon, Lowry sits inside the e11even restaurant and finds so much satisfaction out of the way the lunchtime crowd gravitates to him. They want a winner here, and it means the world to Lowry that he's becoming synonymous with the franchise's renaissance. An old Villanova and Raptors guard, Alvin Williams, told Lowry something upon his trade to Toronto that still resonates.

"If you ever get this city to the playoffs, they'll never forget you."

Even now, they still treat Williams like a prodigal son upon his return – all because the Raptors won a playoff round with Williams over a decade ago.

All these months later, most of all, it is Chauncey Billups' words still resonating with Kyle Lowry. Winning changes everything for a point guard, changes the way everyone sees you, Billups told him. Billups was right about something else, too. Toronto could be his Detroit, the city to change course and change his story.

Suddenly, Lowry is the dynamo for the Eastern Conference's third seed, these Raptors who are so much in his image: Refusing to go away, refusing to stop coming. Here was Kyle Lowry, best shape of his life, his best season and it's all unfolding the way he badly wanted to believe it could, the way that Big Shot told him over and over could still be for him.

"I thank Chauncey all the time, and I tell him, 'I want to try and be better than you,' " Lowry says. " 'But first, I want to be … like you.' He would tell me to handle a situation the way that he would, to never get frustrated, to be a man. I still hear him saying, 'You've got to take responsibility for your talent.'

"Shoot, I'm nowhere near him. He's an All-Star. He's a Finals winner. A Team USA gold medalist. He's Mr. Big Shot. Some of those are goals might be too late for me to achieve, but they're some things still there for me to chase.

"If I wanted to do this, I had to grow up. I've had to look in the mirror, and tell myself: You can't talk about changing, you've got to live it. You've got to do it.

"Whoever they thought I was, this is me now. You've got to show them. And I'm showing them. I think I'm showing them all now."

End of long read.

03-20-2014, 10:54 AM
Lowry stock is through the roof

he is going to get paid

03-21-2014, 05:05 PM
good article:D

if true, Masai sounds like a passionate leader.

03-22-2014, 06:30 PM
Lowry stock is through the roof

he is going to get paid

That's kind of what worries me. As much as I like Lowry and want the Raptors to re-sign him, if some jackass team decides to give him a near max contract to him, I don't want the management to feel obligated to match for the sake of it.