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NBA@2: Lowry: Raptors Are A Playoff Team
Posted By Bill Ingram On July 16, 2012 @ 2:02 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Don’t be surprised if the Toronto Raptors are one of the NBA’s most improved teams in 2012-13, and don’t be surprised if that success has a lot to do with their new starting point guard. The Raptors brain trust of Bryan Colangelo and Ed Stefanski have been looking to put their team in the Eastern Conference playoff picture with their offseason moves, and while they have made a number of nice moves, the best may be the acquisition of point guard Kyle Lowry from the Houston Rockets.
Lowry came into his own over the last two seasons in Houston after beginning his career in a platoon role with Mike Conley in Memphis. Houston starter Aaron Brooks suffered a severe ankle injury two seasons ago, opening the door for Lowry to prove himself as a starter for the Rockets. Lowry played so well that Brooks lost his starting job, and was eventually traded to Phoenix. The situation in Houston soured for Lowry when head coach Rick Adelman left for Minnesota and Kevin McHale took his place, and the rift that developed led to Lowry being traded. Things may not have ended on a great note, but Lowry is grateful for the opportunity the Rockets gave him.
“Houston was a great situation while it lasted,” Lowry tells HOOPSWORLD. “I personally think things have changed in that organization and it is what it is. I definitely had an opportunity and was happy to have the opportunity to grow as a player, with them giving me the ball and letting me go and prove that I’m an NBA starter.”
In 2011-12 Lowry averaged career-highs of 14.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals during the 2011-12 season. He also contributed team-highs of 6.6 assists and 32.1 minutes in 47 games (38 starts). As a starter, he upped his averages to 15.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.8 steals and 35.5 minutes.
“I believe I’m a pretty capable point guard in this league,” Lowry says of his best season as a pro. “Having a career year last year definitely attracted some new teams that wanted me to be there after the year I had. But you know, I’m only 26 years old and I’m still getting better as a player. I see every year as a chance for me to get better and prove myself every chance I can.”
Now Lowry is looking forward to proving himself as the starter on a team that expects to be among the best in the Eastern Conference next season.
“I’m excited to be a part of a young team, to have an opportunity to be part of the rise of a young team. I think Mr. Colangelo has done a great job with what he’s implemented, players he’s signed, players he’s traded for. I know Coach Casey is a great coach; he’s all about defense, which is good for me, and I know (assistant coach) Johnny Davis so I’m comfortable with that staff.”
While Lowry is just 26 years old, he will be one of the grizzled veterans on what is a very young team in Toronto. Still, he sees himself and Andrea Bargnani as the kind of veterans who can help a young team come together quickly.
“I believe, with me and some of the other moves the team has made, that we are a playoff team. We have great young guys with potential, me and Andrea Bargnani are kind of the elder statesmen on that team right now. It’s definitely one of those things where we can be the leaders and instill a playoff mentality with the younger guys on that team.”
Of course, making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference is one thing, advancing is something else. The HEAT have improved already, Brooklyn is gearing up and the Celtics are expecting to be back in contention with Jeff Green and Jason Terry in the mix. Lowry isn’t quite ready to say that his new Raptors team is ready to hang with the East’s best.
“I don’t know. I think we have to come together as a team, really become one cohesive unit, we can go far, but it’s too early to tell,” admits Lowry. “We definitely have the talent and the ability to match up with the best teams in the East, but we have to put it together, and that will happen during the two weeks of training camp. So I can’t say for certain yet, but I do believe that with the talent and ability we have we have a chance to be very, very good.”
As for Lowry himself, he’s not satisfied with just having a career year. After recovering from sports hernia surgery he’s back in the gym getting ready to push his game to new heights in Toronto.
“I’m working on everything,” says Lowry, who wants to be an All-Star one day. “I’m sure Raptors fans aren’t too familiar with me, but I’m working on everything. I’m working on three-point shooting, mid-range, getting better at every part of the game. I want Raptors fans to see that I’m one of the hardest-working players in the game.”
If his work ethic and his desire to win catch on, the Toronto Raptors could be one of the most improved teams in the NBA next season, and back in the playoffs, as well.
Los Angeles Lakers Still Looking For Depth
As the Miami HEAT continue to up the ante in the Eastern Conference, adding veterans Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to an already-impressive supporting cast, one of the teams hoping to unseat them as NBA champions is looking for similar depth charges.
The Los Angeles Lakers may have gotten the steal of the summer when they grabbed Steve Nash from the Phoenix Suns, but they are anything buy satisfied that they are now prepared to challenge the Oklahoma City Thunder in the West, let alone the HEAT for the top spot in the NBA. They continue to look for their own veterans to come off the bench in support of what is now one of the most impressive starting units in the league.
Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant have been working to recruit former Suns forward Grant Hill, who is pondering the possibility of retirement, and has been linked to the New York Knicks, as well. According to multiple reports, Hill is now leaning strongly in the direction of joining former Suns teammate Nash in Los Angeles.
The Lakers are also pursuing veteran forward Antawn Jamison, who might be the better candidate to provide a significant source of offense for the Lakers. Jamison, though, is also strongly considering an offer from the Charlotte Bobcats, which would allow Jamison to finish his career close to home. Though he was born in Louisiana, Jamison grew up in Charlotte, making the Bobcats a strong option despite their rebuilding status. He may be on the down side of his career, but Jamison averaged 17.2 points per game for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season and is still more than capable of being an impact player in the NBA.
The Lakers are also expected to bring back Jordan Hill, and may pursue OJ Mayo or Shannon Brown in an effort to add scoring off the bench.
Blake Griffin Surgery Scheduled
Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin will undergo arthroscopic surgery today to repair the medial meniscus tear of his left knee which he suffered during Team USA’s practice in Las Vegas on Wednesday, July 11th. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic.
Griffin experienced discomfort following Wednesday’s practice in Las Vegas. He underwent a magnetic resonance imaging examination on Thursday afternoon in Los Angeles which revealed the injury. MRI data was then analyzed by Clippers’ Team Physician, Dr. Steven Shimoyama, and Dr. ElAttrache.
Yao Ming, NBA China Expand Partnership
Yao Ming and NBA China today announced a broad and comprehensive partnership to further basketball participation, develop youth basketball, promote cultural exchange, and conduct social responsibility programs in China.
Through this partnership, Yao will collaborate with the league to launch basketball and social development programs for Chinese youth through NBA Cares and the Yao Foundation for communities in need.
This announcement follows the launch this April of the inaugural Yao Foundation Hope Primary School Basketball Season. Currently taking place in 47 Hope schools across Sichuan, and supported by NBA Cares, the initiative demonstrates the shared commitment to youth development and giving back to society through basketball. The program which culminates in Leshan, China in August provides underprivileged children with the opportunity to experience the joy of basketball and the values of sportsmanship.
Among the many social responsibility programs both entities conduct in China, the Yao Foundation also will stage a bi-annual Yao Ming Charity basketball game, with support from NBA Cares, to raise funds for the Yao Foundation Hope Primary School Basketball Season.
Yao and NBA China have additional plans to work with the relevant sports authorities to develop a high school coaches training program; a basketball training center in Shanghai for both amateur and professional players of a wide range of ages; and an annual basketball camp that will focus on developing elite youth players.
“The passion for basketball in China has never been stronger and tapping into the NBA’s expertise and the support from Chinese fans will help me carry out my mission of giving back to communities in Shanghai and throughout China,” said Yao. “The game of basketball has been so good to me and while I have left the court I will never leave the game. I look forward to working with the NBA to give more youth the opportunity to play basketball at an elite level and help more people in need. I would love to see the next generation of Chinese players surpass the accomplishments of my generation.”
“Yao is in a truly unique position to help grow the game of basketball in China because he has a first-hand understanding of China’s sports system and the NBA,” said NBA China CEO David Shoemaker. “We welcome Yao as an advisor to NBA China and this partnership will strengthen our on-going collaboration with the Chinese Basketball Association to enhance the development of youth basketball in China.”
The partnership with Yao complements the NBA’s rich history and long-term commitment to basketball development in China. The NBA first hosted China’s National Team in 1985 and is currently in the third year of a joint coaching program with the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) which has trained more than 200 coaches. In September 2011, the CBA Dongguan Basketball School – an NBA Training Center – opened for elite players ages 12-17 and is the first such NBA facility anywhere in the world.
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