TORONTO – Raptors legend Kyle Lowry knows his return to Toronto won’t be easy.
The team on Friday confirmed a sign-and-trade deal that sent the star guard to the Miami Heat, ending his nine-year run in Toronto.
“I’m not looking forward to that first game coming back because I know there’ll be a tribute and I know I’m going to cry,” Lowry told reporters on a video call Friday. “So I’m not looking forward to it.”
The 35-year-old six-time all-star guard announced his departure to Miami in a tweet Monday, but NBA teams were not allowed to confirm roster moves until Friday.
In exchange for Lowry, Toronto gets veteran guard Goran Dragic and young prospect Precious Achiuwa.
Lowry is Toronto’s all-time leader in assists (4,277), steals (873), three-pointers made (1,518) and triple-doubles (16). He was also a crucial part of the team’s 2019 championship win.
Dragic is a 13-year NBA veteran who holds career averages of 13.9 points, 4.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds. The 35-year-old Slovenian has also played for Houston and Phoenix.
The 21-year-old Achiuwa was taken 20th overall by Miami in the 2020 NBA draft. The six-foot-nine, 235-pound forward from Nigeria averaged 5.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 12.1 minutes in 61 games during his rookie season.
Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said he’s spoken with Achiuwa and Dragic and both are “very excited” about coming to Toronto.
Still, Webster admitted it was tough to move on from Lowry.
“I think emotionally, obviously, there’s a ton of good feelings and affection and all of those things,” he said.
“I think we knew this was the better direction for the team and, ultimately, probably the better direction for him. He gets to go to a place that I think he’s always at least been intrigued by and play with some guys that he’s talked about over the years.”
Lowry said he had several “great conversations” about his future with Raptors president and vice-chairman Masai Ujiri last season and both were very open about their intentions.
Toronto wants to give opportunities to younger players like Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, Lowry said.
“They have some great core pieces. And I spoke about it — they’re in great hands,” he said.
VanVleet in particular took on more of leadership role last season, he added.
“He started to do a little more talking, a little bit more coaching, a little bit more mentoring,” Lowry said. “I think he just was ready.”
Heading into free agency, Lowry entertained a number of options and said his move to Miami was influenced by Heat star Jimmy Butler.
The pair are longtime friends and Lowry is even the godfather to Butler’s daughter, Rylee.
“He was really on me about coming to the Heat and kind of fulfilling some things that we’ve talked about before and trying to possibly play together,” Lowry said. “Now that the opportunity is here, I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
Lowry, who hails from Philadelphia, has averaged 14.9 points, 6.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds in 960 NBA games. Over his 15-year career, he’s played for Toronto, Houston and Memphis, and currently ranks fifth in assists among active players on the NBA’s all-time list.
In addition to Butler, Miami’s roster also features athletic big man Bam Adebayo and sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.
It’s a lineup Lowry’s eager to join. He knows, though, that the group must work hard in order to return the Heat to its former glory.
“On paper it looks great, but we’ve got to put in the work on the floor,” he said. “It looks good, but you’ve got to find a way to put it together. You don’t put it together, then it don’t mean jack, right?”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2021