Toronto Raptors All-Star guard Kyle Lowry may have poked the dragon before he even gets to the cave. After the Raptors' emotional win in Game 7 over the Miami Heat to clinch the franchise's first trip to the Conference Finals, Lowry was interviewed by ESPN's Doris Burke courtside.
The Raptors star described LeBron James as "one of the best players in the league, besides Steph Curry."
The Raptors face James and the Cleveland Cavaliers starting Tuesday in Cleveland for Game 1, and you can bet this is going to be one of the storylines. James is going to get asked about it Monday, and then Lowry will get asked about it, etc. etc. etc. This is going to be a "thing."
There's really three ways to interpret what Lowry said:
The Accident Explanation. Lowry just won the biggest game of his career. It's an emotional moment for him and his teammates, who he's become so close to. He's on the sideline, being asked impromptu questions in the middle of a screaming loud arena celebrating, expected to provide in-depth, well spoken answers. It's not a great situation. He could have just meant "LeBron, like Steph," is a great player and it came out wrong. After all, he said it in the middle of a bunch of other compliments about the Cavs. Did he really want to disrespect James, unnecessarily, when he's going to have to come up with a way to stop the four-time MVP in two days' time? Sometimes athletes say things and they're not meant to be taken as some sort of purposeful dig.
The Mind Games Theory. Maybe Lowry was purposefully taking a dig at James. Lowry's never been one for diplomacy, and the Raptors have no intention of being just a speed bump in the Cavaliers' racetrack approach towards the Finals. Starting off by aggravating him on the subject of Curry, which James has already sounded defensive about this week, could be a very intentional move on Lowry's part.
The God's Honest Truth. What if Lowry just thinks that? After all, if you asked 9 out of 10 people with any knowledge on the NBA and they'll say that Curry was the MVP this season, and is having one of the best runs in NBA history. As good as James has been, Curry's been performing at a level that is somehow even greater. Maybe Lowry really does feel that there's Curry, and then everyone else, including James. That's how it's certainly felt this season.
The Warriors are favorites to win the title, and Curry's a huge part of that. However, the Cavaliers are huge favorites to win the East, and Lowry's likely to find out a pretty big reason why that is in the next few days.