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Raptors talk Kyle Lowry, Dwane Casey's future

By James Herbert | NBA writer

Kyle Lowry wouldn't commit to anything at his end-of-season press conference on Monday, but he didn't sound eager to change teams. After finishing the best season of his career with 28 points in a one-point loss in Sunday's Game 7 against the Brooklyn Nets, the Toronto Raptors point guard will be a free agent in July. The biggest reason for Toronto's turnaround, Lowry said that he wanted to sign somewhere he could win, grow as a player and keep himself and his family happy.

“Of course I can see myself back,” Lowry said. “We just went to Game 7, first round. Nobody expected us to be there. Of course I can see that. Those things are on my mind. But I really haven't got into a deep process of thought yet. We're still two months away. We've still got a long way to go, a lot of thinking and talking to do.”

He said he was still in “Game 7 mode” and had to weigh his options, but spoke glowingly of the franchise. “The culture around here is unbelievable, from top to bottom,” Lowry said, adding that he's sure general manager Masai Ujiri would do what it took to take the team to the next level. He called the city “awesome” and the Raptors locker room the best mixture of guys he'd played with in his eight seasons.

“It's still a business and you have to be a businessman for the situation that you're in, but I am very happy,” Lowry said. “This has been one of the best seasons I've had through and through. Best coaches, teammates, upstairs. It's been great. I am happy. Without a doubt, I can say I'm happy.”

Lowry said that the presence of DeMar DeRozan in the backcourt would be a factor. The duo has grown close on and off the court in their two years together.

“If you go around the league and find a guy like that, you want to play with him,” Lowry said.

One by one, teammates expressed that they wanted Lowry to return. DeRozan wouldn't even acknowledge the possibility of him leaving. Asked if it would be difficult to watch his friend go through free agency, DeRozan said, “No. No. No.” Asked why, he responded, “Because.” After some laughs, he repeated, “No.”

One reporter pointed out that it appeared Lowry had assured him he'd come back.

I didn't say that,” DeRozan said. “I didn't say he was; I didn't say he wasn't. I just said I'm not worried about it.”

Swingman Terrence Ross called Lowry “hands down the best point guard I've ever played with” and “my biggest brother.” He said he often tells Lowry, “You've got to come back, you're basically the heart of the team, we need you to come back,” but Lowry will always say that's something to worry about later.

“I love him because he's a warrior,” center Jonas Valanciunas said. “He's a great player, he's the spirit of our team and he's going to do what he needs to do, what he wants to do. I would be happy to see him next to me next year.”

Lowry isn't the only free-agent-to-be in Toronto. While head coach Dwane Casey's won't meet the media until Tuesday, every player asked about his future supported him. Although Casey doesn't have a contract for next season, Lowry said he was sure he'd be back. Ross gave him credit for his growth, and Greivis Vasquez praised him for an inspirational pep talk. DeRozan said he never doubted him because he was genuine.

“One thing I respect about coach Casey, man, he's been consistent,” DeRozan said. “He's been the same Dwane Casey since he's been here. Preached the same thing, told us to stick with the same principles and they'll work. We did it, and everything he said came together like he said it would.“

Vasquez, a restricted free agent himself, held court for 18 minutes, talking about how much he loves the city. He said he'd be heartbroken if he had to go elsewhere, and that the Raptors could be, “the OKC in the East.” He added that he learned a lot from Lowry and that new contracts wouldn't change either of them.

“I think if we're all back, we can dominate the East,” Vasquez said. “I'm not saying this in an arrogant way: I think this team is a special team.”

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