Former Raptors star Kyle Lowry says returning to Toronto will always be emotional

TORONTO — Kyle Lowry says coming "home" to Toronto will always be tough.

The former Raptors guard talked about the emotional roller-coaster of returning to city he called home for nine years ahead of the Miami Heat's game Wednesday at Scotiabank Arena.

"Nah . . . It's always great to come home, always great to be here, always great to be in the city. (But) I don't think it gets any easier," Lowry said, after Miami's morning shootaround. "I think you get a little bit more comfortable.

"Last year was definitely a lot of butterflies."

Lowry became the cornerstone of the Raptors' franchise through his nine seasons in Toronto, instilling a scrappy, workmanlike mentality the team rode to the 2019 NBA championship. He was traded to Miami — a mutual decision between he and Toronto — in the 2021 off-season.

Lowry's first time back in Toronto — a 114-109 Heat victory on April 23 — included a long pre-game celebration and ovation from the crowd.

"Tonight, I'm sure I'll get a good ovation but it's a little bit different because it’s not my first time," he said Wednesday.

The 36-year-old, who raised his sons Karter and Kameron in Toronto, was greeted by the city's first snowfall of the season on Tuesday evening. He was bundled up in a bulky Canada Goose parka after shootaround.

The Raptors split a pair of games in Miami in late October, so Lowry had already had the opportunity to visit with Toronto players and staff then. Wednesday was about visiting everybody else at Scotiabank Arena.

"When I come back here, being able to see the elevator workers, security guys and the familiar faces who don't travel," Lowry said. "That's the most important thing. And then seeing the fans that you normally see when I played here. Those are the people I'm looking forward to seeing."

Lowry arrives on the heels of hitting 2,000 career three-pointers. He's the 12th player in NBA history to make that many, hitting the milestone shot in a 113-112 comeback win over Phoenix on Monday.

"Yeah, a lot of (threes)," he said. "I never thought I'd be there but I'm here now. It's a great accomplishment but like I always say, I'll look at my accomplishments when I'm done and retired. It's cool to get some acknowledgment but, for now, let's go and try to get some more wins."

Lowry still watches a lot of Raptors games.

"My guys are still on this team," he said. "I support my guys. Freddy (VanVleet), O.G. (Anunoby), Pascal (Siakam) — I really support those guys. I just like to watch how they've matured and become better individual basketball players and men."

He had kind words for Anunoby and last season's rookie of the year Scottie Barnes.

"(Anunoby) has been one of the best defenders in the league since he's been in the league," Lowry said. "I think he's just now taking more pride in doing it more because he’s getting the attention, which he should have been getting."

Lowry was asked if Barnes has what it takes to follow in his footsteps as Toronto's franchise player.

"I think he's going to create his own footsteps, and that's the most important thing for a guy like him. Freddy, Pascal, those guys are creating their own footsteps, O.G. — they're creating their own path," he said. "For a guy like me who's been there so long and seen it, I'm just happy for them to be able to create their own path, create their own legacy, create their own everything."

The Raptors began the day in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, four spots but only half a game ahead of the Heat. Miami staggered out to a slow start but arrived in Toronto on a three-game win streak.

"It's a marathon and not a sprint," Lowry said. "Early in the year we were trying to figure out our team. Right now, unfortunately, we've got injuries so that forces everyone to step up a little bit more. . . 14 games in, if you're concerned about your individual stats and your game right now, you shouldn't be.

"As a veteran player, my thing is everyone comes in from the summertime and you've got to get back comfortable with each other as group and we've got to figure out different lineups, different teams."

Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo were listed out with injuries against Toronto, while the Raptors are without Siakam (groin), Precious Achiuwa (ankle), and Otto Porter Jr. (dislocated toe).

VanVleet (non-COVID illness) and Gary Trent Jr. (hip soreness) were questionable for Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2022.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press