About eight years ago, Raptors assistant coach Alvin Williams scrimmaged at Villanova in his hometown of Philadelphia.
He faced another Philly-born point guard, a kid he had helped recruit to the school.
“I thought he was a jerk,” said Williams, who played 460 games for the Raptors from 1998-2006 before ravaged knees forced his retirement at 30.
“I know what Alvin would have said,” Kyle Lowry said, laughing. “It’s just a matter of maturing as a person. I had to understand that not everyone wanted to take something from me. As a friend, Alvin was always there for me. “
“I wear my emotions on my sleeve. At home, on the road, wherever, it doesn’t matter. I want to win every game.”
And every scrimmage. Acquired for guard Gary Forbes and a protected first round draft choice from the Houston Rockets, the 26-year-old Lowry arrives as the kind of defence-first, tough-minded point guard who will imbue his relentless style across the roster.
The best example of Lowry’s tenacity can be found in his rebounding. Aside from Rajon Rondo whose prodigious wingspan mitigates his height, the top 10 rebounding guards (minimum 40 games) tower over the six-foot Lowry.
The average among the nine players in front of Lowry was six-foot-five.
|1) Evan Turner||Phil.||5.8||‘6-7″|
|2) Paul George||Ind.||5.6||‘6-8″|
|3) Kobe Bryant||LAL.||5.4||‘6-6″|
|4) Rajon Rondo||Bos.||4.8||‘6-1″|
|5) Dwyane Wade||Mia.||4.8||‘6-4″|
|6) Jarred Dudley||Phx.||4.6||‘6-7″|
|7) Tyreke Evans||Sac.||4.6||‘6-6″|
|8) Russell Westbrook||OKC.||4.6||‘6-3″|
|9) John Wall||Wash.||4.5||‘6-4″|
|10) Kyle Lowry||Hou.||4.4||‘6-0″|
Williams said watching Lowry battle bigger men will affect every player on the roster.
“It’s infectious,” Williams said. “If you have a teammate who is giving away a foot and still gets a rebound and boxes out against much bigger players, you’ve got to support your teammate. That’s the code, you never let a teammate down. “
Now take the same ten players and note their assists per game. Lowry’s 6.6 per game trails only Rondo (8.1) and John Wall (8.0).
He is fifth among scorers behind Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Wade and Wall.
The closest comparable among the ten is Wall, the Wizards’ franchise player.
Selected in the second round by Memphis after two years at Villanova, Lowry has fashioned himself into an NBA player despite the fact that he hit six-feet in his second year of college and immediately stopped growing.
“I think my size definitely helped me,” Lowry said. “If you’re six feet tall, you’ve got to be able to help, you’ve got to be able to defend, you’ve got to do the intangibles.”
Lowry became available after he missed nine games because of an abdominal injury. He was a shadow of the player he had been after the injury surfaced.
Only after surgery, May 1, was a serious infection found.
“The muscle was tearing away from the bone because of the infection. No one knew why because before the surgery,” Lowry said.
Medication and surgery have repaired the damage and Lowry has returned to his 5:30 am workouts.
The point guard inherits a team with a brand new pick and roll threat in rookie Jonas Valanciunas, a steady swing man in Landry Fields, an emerging talent in DeMar DeRozan and sharpshooting rookie Terrence Ross. Andrea Bargnani is coming off his best, if truncated season with a 19.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per night.
The team’s record, of course, underscores an abundance of need. Consider that Lowry grabbed only one fewer rebound a game than the seven-foot Bargnani. There is plenty of room for improvement but the club established a defensive philosophy that will be redoubled with Lowry challenging the opposing point guard.
“I can’t wait to get up there, a new team, a new bunch of young guys,” Lowry said. “I’m just so excited to have this opportunity.”
No more excited than another Philly-born point guard.
“If you look back, six or seven years ago, I don’t think anyone thought Kyle would be the player he is now,” Williams said. “I don’t claim him as one of my own because he’s a good player. I claim him because of the way he’s developed as an intelligent, professional young man.”