The 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend tips off in Toronto in just one week and thanks to Kyle Lowry the festivities will have an even more local flavour than originally expected.
Word leaked out on Wednesday night that rookie Norman Powell – who had hoped to have a shot at representing the Toronto Raptors in the slam dunk competition – had not made the final cut, and though DeMar DeRozan admitted that he considered entering the contest for a third time in his career, he ultimately decided that, physically, he wasn’t up to it.
But Lowry will provide the Canadian connection as one of eight competitors in the three-point shootout and he couldn’t be more proud to represent the city and organization that has provided him the chance to see his career take off.
“I’ve got to do something ’cause Terrence [Ross] and DeMar punked out,” joked Lowry. “I just wanted to make sure we had representation on All-Star Saturday Night for our fans.”
Lowry becomes the third Raptor in franchise history to compete in the event. Walt Williams was the first to do it in 1997 and Jason Kapono took part in both 2008 and 2009.
The task at hand won't be an easy one for the two-time all-star. Lowry will compete against James Harden (Houston), Chris Bosh (Miami), J.J. Redick (L.A. Clippers), Klay Thompson (Golden State), Devin Booker (Phoenix), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee) and reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry (Golden State).
“It's kind of an honour to be able to shoot against some of the best shooters in the NBA,” Lowry said. “I'm competitive enough that I want to win but … I'm shooting against some excellent shooters so I'll just let the pressure be on those guys.”
Lowry, who competed in the skills competition last year during his first stint as an all-star, recalled his first true encounter with the three-point contest.
“I remember my second year in the league [when] I was helping Mike Miller prepare ... and it's such a different preparation,” he said. “When I'm home I'll work on getting some shots up off the rack and just go have fun with it.”
The Philadelphia native won't have a ton of time to get in that prep. The Raptors took an early-morning flight from Portland on Friday and following a practice in Toronto on Saturday afternoon the team will depart on Sunday for two more road games – in Detroit and Minnesota. The club won't return home until the early hours of Thursday, and by then the city-wide hype and festivities will be in full-swing.
“I'm just excited to represent Toronto and the Raptors and Canada in a competition that's known for being fun and highly anticipated,” he said.
Lowry currently leads all Eastern Conference players in three-pointers made with 142 and is shooting a career-best 39.7 per cent from beyond the arc.