Kyle Lowry was on the bench with a sprained ankle yesterday while his team got punted out of the playoffs by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for a second consecutive season. Lowry knew the Raptors’ season was over after they lost Game 3 on Friday night, and he was feeling existential afterwards.
Speaking to Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical, Lowry admitted that he didn’t think any team in the Eastern Conference, his included, is capable of beating LeBron James:
“They’ve got LeBron James,” Lowry told The Vertical late Friday night. “Nobody’s closing the gap on him. I mean, that’s it right there: They’ve got LeBron James and nobody’s closing the gap on him.”
“I don’t know when his prime is going to stop,” Lowry told The Vertical. “I don’t think it’s going to stop anytime soon. I think he’ll be able to continue what he’s doing for a long time. But that’s basketball. You’ve got to find a way to beat the best.”
Not that you needed any more evidence that LeBron James is perhaps the most dominant force in NBA history, but if you did, him getting a player like Kyle Lowry—a good player! an All-Star!—to publicly throw up his hands while still in a playoff series against James and admit, “Yeah, nobody is touching this guy” is pretty convincing.
Today, Lowry took the first step towards potentially fleeing future confrontations with James:
There’s still a good chance that Lowry will stay in Toronto—the Raptors can offer him a five-year, $200 million deal while other teams can only give him four years at $35 million per year—but if he really meant what he said to The Vertical on Friday, a move to the Western Conference seems to be his likely next step.
What good, though, is replacing a struggle against James’s reign in the East with a fight against the Warriors in the West? He’s been thoroughly punished by LeBron, but it’s hard to imagine him finding a situation in the west that won’t end with him catching similar beatings from the Warriors’ Big Four. Are the Spurs plus Lowry good enough to challenge Golden State? The Clippers? The Jazz?
Part of the problem here is that Lowry’s status as a star likely won’t last much longer. He’s 31 now, and although his game is designed to age gracefully, point guards tend to deteriorate quickly as they enter their mid-30s. Lowry will certainly want to earn as much money as possible after playing out a bargain contract in Toronto, but the list of teams that can both afford him and call themselves actual contenders is a short one.
Maybe the best thing for Lowry would be to just take the money to stay in Toronto, cement his status as a local hero, and get comfortable with the fact that LeBron James is beyond his reach. He told reporters today that he wants a ring more than anything else, but sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes your athletic prime coincides with the rise of a historically great super team and the arrival of actual basketball god, and the best you can hope for is not much.