Lowry arrives 10 pounds lighter as Raptors open camp
TORONTO (AP) Even Kyle Lowry's teammates stopped and stared when he stepped onto the court at the Toronto Raptors' practice facility on Monday.
The star point guard arrived at media day physically transformed, weighing a lean 196 pounds and sporting a muscular appearance that would make even the 2014 version of Lowry jealous.
''I got abs now,'' he said with a wide grin. ''I feel faster, I feel a lot lighter. I feel quicker. I feel sharper. I still feel strong. When I go in the weight room, I still move the same weight I've always moved.''
Lowry said he changed his offseason diet and workout routine, hired a new nutritionist and leaned on his personal chef to help him drop 10 pounds, which he hopes will help keep him on the court as enters his 10th NBA season.
The 29-year-old played some of the best basketball of his career over the first half of last season, earning him his first All-Star selection, but a back injury limited his performance down the stretch.
''Sometimes when you get old, you've got to change your body a little bit,'' said Lowry, who averaged 17.8 points and 6.8 assists in 2014. ''I'm not a young pup anymore.''
As Lowry faded late last year, so did the Raptors' hopes of postseason success.
Despite clinching its second straight Atlantic Division title with the best record franchise history (49-33), Toronto lost in the first round for the sixth time in seven playoff appearances, bowing out to the Washington Wizards in four games. Most returning players said Monday they'd put that disappointment behind them, but the sting of an early exit was still palpable.
''Nobody wanted to go out like that, especially how we started off the season, the expectations that everybody had for us,'' said shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, whose contract expires after the upcoming season.
Now, after an offseason roster overhaul that included the departures of power forward Amir Johnson and guards Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams, the Raptors open training camp Tuesday with plenty of new faces, including 10 that were brought in via free agency.
Among key acquisitions was forward DeMarre Carroll, who signed a four-year, $60 million contract on July 9. Carroll, who averaged a career-high 12.6 points with 5.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 31.3 minutes with the Atlanta Hawks last season, was considered one of the best players available at his position.
''The biggest thing I'll have to bring is the grit and grind,'' said Carroll, who along with Lowry, DeRozan and center Jonas Valanciunas make up the Raptors' core four. ''When stuff gets hard, you have to keep grinding.''
The same day the Carroll signed, the club inked free agent point guard Cory Joseph, its first Canadian player since Jamaal Magloire.
Less than a week after getting Carroll and Joseph, general manager Masai Ujiri brought in Luis Scola, a 35-year-old who spent the past two seasons with the Indiana Pacers. The 6-foot-9 Argentine will compete for minutes with Anthony Bennett, who signed a one-year deal Monday, and Patrick Patterson at the power forward position.
''I expect a lot of good things,'' said Scola, who averaged 9.7 points and 6.7 rebounds with the Pacers last season.
''This is a good team, they played really well last year, won 49 games. Any time you're that close to 50 wins is a good thing in the NBA.''�
In bringing on Bennett, the former first-rounder whose contract was bought out by the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sept. 23, the Raptors have two Canadians on their roster for the first time.
''For us to get a Canadian, 22-year-old power forward that's athletic and can play, at the minimum? We'll take it,'' Ujiri said of Bennett.
Fifth-year head coach Dwane Casey said Ujiri has provided him with the pieces necessary to win, and now it's the coaching staff's job to put it all together.
''Masai and his group brought in some very good pieces for us that's going to address a lot of our needs,'' Casey said. ''A lot of two-way players that are really going to help us. Our job as a staff is to glue everything together and make sure we get all the right pieces fitting in the right slot.''