Kyle Lowry’s willingness to take a secondary role to incoming star Kawhi Leonard was a key first step in the Toronto Raptors winning their first title Thursday night.
The July trade that brought Leonard to Toronto was among the topics the two players discussed with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols following the Raptors’ 114-110 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 6.
“I told him, day one, this is his team. He the man,” Lowry told Nichols. “And I’m gonna make sure he’s the man. And when he did special things, I told him he was the man.”
Said Leonard: “That’s just the type of guy he is, you know? He wants to win. Very competitive player. Like I said before, Kyle’s been a big help with me in my transition, just knowing things throughout the city and obviously basketball.”
Leonard called winning another NBA title “surreal” while referencing behind-the-scenes drama that could have derailed the Raptors’ season.
“Our season was so up and down — behind the scenes,” Leonard said. “And you know, that’s how you know this is a great group of teammates. Nothing got out. You guys didn’t know what was going on.”
Leonard declined to address follow-up questions, while Lowry responded “all you gotta know is that’s the MVP right there. We world champs.”
By being named Finals MVP, Leonard became the first player to win the award with a team from both conferences; he was the Finals MVP in 2014 when the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat.
Leonard averaged 28.5 points per game on 43 percent shooting in the Finals, but Lowry was also a key contributor, including his 26-point performance in the title-clincher.
“Words can’t explain it, to be honest,” Lowry told Nichols. “But the feelings of just success, the adversity, the ups and downs. It’s what you work for as a professional, as a man. You just wanna be at the top of your game when you need to be at the top of your game. And it all kinda worked out at some point.”
Leonard and Lowry said they will now stay “in the moment” to celebrate the title, but the next question will be Leonard’s pending free agency, should he decline to exercise a $21.3 million player option for next season. Leonard told Nichols he wasn’t worried about that yet.
“I’m not thinking about it right now,” Leonard said. “No, I’m a Raptor for right now. And you know, we’ll see what happens.”