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The art of the assist comes naturally to Raptors all-star Kyle Lowry

The art of the assist comes naturally to Raptors all-star Kyle Lowry
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As the Pied Piper of the Raptors , the veteran point guard is more happy about leading teammate Pascal Siakam, coach Nick Nurse and Nurse’s staff to this weekend’s NBA all-star festivities than he is about going himself.

He plays at times, this rough and tumble veteran who is just doing his job and performing like he’s paid to perform. He can be curt and charming and disruptive and argumentative all in one interview, but at his heart, around his teammates, he’s a bit of softie who basks in the accomplishments of others and is intensely proud of what he’s done personally.

It’s part of a complex, unique set of personality characteristics that go into the makeup of the now six-time all-star.

Take the evening of Jan. 31, for instance. The night before Lowry was selected to make his sixth straight all-star appearance, the Raptors already had Siakam as one of the starters, and the Raptors were finishing up a dreary Cleveland-Detroit back-to-back with a game against the Pistons in the absolute throes of the dog days of a long NBA season.

It would have been a perfect night for a 13-year veteran to take it a bit easy. But no. Lowry was as excited and intense as ever, dishing out six assists in 31 predictably excellent minutes and celebrating after the game like his team had just won something much bigger.

Why? Because the win guaranteed Nurse and his staff would coach this Sunday’s game and Lowry wanted to celebrate what they’d done.

“Kyle talked about it a lot, just how relentless they were on continuing to win so the coaching staff could have this opportunity,” said Nate Bjorkgren, who’ll sit alongside Nurse on the coaching staff for Team Giannis on Sunday night. “Kyle had been talking about it leading up to that game, and there was just no way he was letting this team lose because he knew we had to keep winning, and so did the rest of the guys.”

Why was he like that? Driven to get something for someone else? It’s how he’s wired.

“They won, man,” he said of the staff. ”Those guys put in the time. What I do love about our coaches is, they’re not stubborn. They’re not like, ‘We’re gonna do it this way.’ They really are relaxed and they listen to the players and let the players have opinions.”

And while Bjorkgren may have exposed Lowry’s intentions — it’s the kind of thing Lowry would probably not want widely known — the Philly native, as his old coach Dwane Casey would say, went on to tell on himself.

“I’m so happy for those guys,” Lowry said of the impressive Raptors contingent here this weekend. “It was well-earned and well-deserved, and it’s a representation of a team that were the champs last year and not being satisfied. Still hungry and just working harder and harder every day.”

Lowry’s impact on the Raptors as a player is obvious. He goes hard every night. He’s like a chameleon who can change from scorer one night to facilitator the next depending on what’s needed. It’s why he’s an all-star, why the coaches keep putting him on the team. It’s nice to be voted in as a starter by the fans, but in many ways it’s more of a validation of talent and worth to be recognized by the coaches as a reserve.

What’s not seen often enough is what Lowry does with and for his teammates. He’s constantly encouraging, cajoling, helping.

He’s not out there publicly. He’s there privately.

“He’s always been a great teammate and somebody who brings the team together, like doing dinners and things like that. He always makes sure we stay together,” Siakam said. “I mean, I got to hang out in his jet one time. I think that was special.”

Siakam won’t say what that jet trip was for — “He invited me; it was a great text to get,” was as far as he’d go — but it speaks to what Lowry is behind the scenes and away from the game.

“Coming in, he’s always been the kind of guy to talk to you and reach out and have dinners,” Siakam said. “He takes you in, and it’s great to have vets like that to look at. I’m definitely fortunate to have had a guy like that in my rookie year, to connect like we did.

“Just having him as a big brother you can go to for information. No matter what it is, I know I can send him a text and he’ll have something for me, like advice.”

Lowry does tend to enjoy all-star weekends, as those who know him best and see him most often would expect. He does what’s required of him publicly: the Friday Day of Service appearances, the Saturday media session and various other obligations. He’ll do them part-grumpy, part-charming, but he’ll do them. He’ll also love hanging around with his wife, their two boys and the other all-stars, and he’ll be a popular guy to hang out with.
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