Toronto Raptors fans aren’t used to preseason title expectations, but in the aftermath of the franchise’s first trip to the conference finals, the team’s All-NBA point guard is thinking big.
“Me, personally, I think it’s time,” Kyle Lowry said at Toronto’s Media Day on Monday, responding to a question about where the team is setting the bar after last year was viewed as second-round-or-bust. “I want a ring. I want to win a championship.”
While Lowry, like many of the NBA’s elite, has his sights set on the league’s ultimate prize, the Raptors’ leader didn’t want to get too far ahead of himself on the eve of the team’s training camp.
“To be the best team we can be once the regular season’s over, and then go from there. That’s a start,” Lowry said. “Of course I want to win a championship. That would be my ultimate goal. Right now I’m just gonna get through training camp and make sure that we’re on the same page, we continue to grow, be defensive-minded, and go from there.”
With the 73-win Golden State Warriors adding an MVP-caliber talent in Kevin Durant, and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers still led by LeBron James, whose teams have won the Eastern Conference six straight times, the Raptors just reaching The Finals, let alone claiming the Larry O’Brien trophy, would be a stunning development.
Las Vegas, meanwhile, gives Toronto the seventh-best odds of winning it all, at 40-1.
Still, Lowry’s optimism isn’t exactly ludicrous, as his Raptors won a franchise-record 56 games and claimed the NBA’s fourth-best record last season, despite starters DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas both missing significant chunks of the season. A banged-up Raptors squad then took two games off the eventual champion Cavs in the Eastern Conference finals.
With continuity once again on their side, some better luck staying healthy, and a top-15 superstar in Lowry leading one of the league’s deeper, more talented teams, perhaps Canada’s lone franchise could be a title dark horse after all.
Lowry, who could test free agency next summer – something he said Monday he won’t focus on or discuss during the season – averaged a career-high 21.2 points to go along with 6.4 assists, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.1 steals on a true shooting percentage of 57.8 in 2015-16, earning All-NBA third Team honors.