May 4, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) during the warm up against the Brooklyn Nets prior to game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre. Brooklyn defeated Toronto 104-103. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

A New Era for the Toronto Raptors?

As first reported by Sportsnet’s Michael Grange, then reported by me here at Tip of the Tower, the Toronto Raptors inked Kyle Lowry to a 4-year, $48 million deal earlier this week to keep the free agent point guard un-free and a part of their team for the foreseeable future. On July 10th, the team with Lowry at the helm, fittingly enough, held a press conference to announce the deal.

Lowry fought off smiles the entire time that Raptors broadcaster Matt Devlin introduced him as the point guard for the next four years. “I think the situation that I’m in, me being able to lead a team, that was a very big factor in it,” said Lowry later.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Ujiri– Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Raptors President and General Manager Masai Ujiri said: “We made it known that our top priority heading into the off-season was to re-sign Kyle. He was a key to our success last season and we are delighted that he wants to be here in Toronto to help us continue to build a championship program.”

“It’s an unbelievable first-class organization,” Lowry said of the Raptors. “And I wanna be apart of that. This organization is like family.”

“I did my homework. I did my research. I wanted to make my own decision” – Kyle Lowry

“At the end of the day, the decision was easy. The deal was done exactly the way I wanted,” commented Lowry. “You don’t get many chances to say it’s ‘your team,’ honestly. As a competitor, as a professional, I relish in that. The fact that I get to say that I’m the leader of the team.”

Beyond news of the signing, what does it mean for the Raptors?

What Lowry, Ujiri, the Raptors, and their fans hope this signing signifies is that the glass ceiling of playing in Toronto has been shattered. A big-name free agent signing in Toronto is a pretty new thing. “Everyone says Toronto can’t do this; Toronto can’t do that. Toronto can’t sign back their own free agents…”

“Well, I just proved that wrong,” Lowry said with a smile. “I’m back” he confirmed, as the crowd cheered excitedly. “I’m proud to be a Toronto Raptor.”

Perhaps just in to the NBA players, Toronto is a great place to play. Perhaps this signing of the NBA’s top free agent point guard will destroy the whole Canada-as-a-negative stereotype.

With the admiring of Toronto’s fan base during the first round of the playoffs– Lowry gleamed at Jurassic Park created outside the ACC, as well as Kevin Garnett‘s praise after the series for Toronto– it does seem possible that the NBA is coming around on Toronto. The floodgates aren’t exactly open– there are no real reports that LeBron James will be signing in Toronto– but if the stigma is gone, there is no reason Toronto can’t be a real competitor for years to come.

Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Ujiri: “We want to win in Toronto. I came back to fight for the Raptors. We want to compete in the NBA. We want to make a name [for Toronto] and try to compete for a championship.

“That’s why we’re here today.”

It was the other Toronto winter sports team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who called for a culture change. But it looks like the other occupant of the Air Canada Centre are actually doing it… and not just talking about it. The Raptors proved earlier this season that they can be relevant in the city… and they’re well on their way to stealing the spotlight yet again (while the Leafs stay fairly idle).

“This is just the beginning,” Ujiri concluded before handing the mic over to Lowry.

“We want to win in Toronto” – Masai Ujiri
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Tags: Jurassic Park Kevin Garnett Kyle Lowry LeBron James Masai Ujiri Toronto Raptors

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