From Long Shot To Reality, Kyle Lowry Realizes His Dream
- Las Vegas
The bios for each of the 12 players on the USA Men’s National Team start with their experience in USA Basketball. For some guys it goes all the way back to their youth involvement, like the 2001 USA Basketball Men’s Youth Development Festival Carmelo Anthony attended.
For 6-foot-1 guard Kyle Lowry it goes back to Monday, the first day of training camp for the Rio Olympic Games and the first time the Philadelphia native has participated in any USA Basketball event. The general idea from USA National Team managing director Jerry Colangelo and USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski is that players work their way up the ranks and volunteer plenty of time before earning a coveted spot on an Olympic or FIBA World Cup roster, but sometimes a players’ worth simply can’t be denied.
“It shows that hard work pays off,” Lowry said. “…It’s an unbelievable organization, an unbelievable staff, unbelievable people — to be a part of it is pretty amazing.”
Lowry, 30, has certainly paid his dues, just not in the traditional method of USA Basketball’s infrastructure. After two years at Villanova playing for USA Select Team assistant coach Jay Wright, Lowry started trying to prove himself as an undersized guard in the NBA.
It took some time to find his footing and find the right situation, but Lowry is coming off the best season of his life for the Toronto Raptors, posting career highs in points (21.2 per game), rebounds (4.7), 3-point percentage (38.8) and minutes (37). Led by Lowry and USA National Team teammate DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors also had their best season in existence, posting 50 regular-season victories and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
When USA Basketball had a space to fill and looked around at candidates, Lowry was simply too good to ignore even though they didn’t have any previous experience with him.
“He’s a veteran. He’s a man,” Krzyzewski said. “What I’ve been impressed with him about is how much he can be a point. In Toronto he’s got to score and everything, here he’s trying to lead and he’s a tough guy. I really like him a lot.”
Lowry isn’t the only one in a new environment. Jimmy Butler was invited to the 2014 Select Team but wasn’t able to participate because of injury, so now is his opportunity to continue the legacy that he’s seen guys like Anthony, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant build.
“When you think about basketball, I think they changed the game for everybody,” Butler said. “Just the way they approach the game, the way they approach practice, the way they approach workouts and the fact that they want to compete against each other, because they know that since they were the best, they could only make each other better. I think that they started this and we just want to keep it up.”
That opportunity is coming soon. On Friday the USA National Team will play an exhibition against international power Argentina at T-Mobile Arena, and then it’s four more exhibitions games across the country before Olympic preliminary games begin on Aug. 6.
For some players this is a journey they’ve envisioned or even expected for many years. For Lowry, life changed with a phone call, and now he’s ready to live out what long seemed impossible.
“It was always a dream,” Lowry said, “but now it’s here so I guess it’s a reality.”
History with Argentina
Almost 10 years ago, the Men’s National Team began a 45-game winning streak that they’ll put on the line next month at the Rio Olympic Games. This historic stretch began a day after the bitter disappointment of losing to Greece at the 2006 FIBA World Championships, and it began against Argentina, the country they will face in Friday night’s exhibition.
“It was a huge win,” Krzyzewski said of the 96-81 bronze-medal victory. “… We were disheveled, depressed, ashamed and we had to get it together. It showed that we could recover from adversity.”
That defeat still stings plenty for Colangelo, who could barely force himself to watch the game film years later, and Krzyzewski, who called it the “biggest disappointment in my coaching career.” But it also forced them to look inward, and after they bounced back to defeat Argentina they looked for even more ways to create the right culture, bringing in veteran leadership from Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups.
“The environment that they helped create with that level of professionalism and maturity helped blend that talent we had and that’s what we’ve tried to do now is mirror that,” Krzyzewski said.
Durant in his Element
There’s little Kevin Durant wants more in life than to be surrounded by people who appreciate the joy of basketball as much as he does, because when they have that in common, everything off the court tends to fall in place, too. That’s why USA Basketball camp is just about the perfect place for Durant, who said he gained a lot of good friends from the 2012 Olympic experience and expects more of the same this year.
“I just want to hang with a group of guys that do the same thing I do, that love the same thing that I love and are passionate about it,” Durant said. “It’s that mutual respect. I just want to hang out with them. Basketball will always be there for me. That’s a given, but I’m looking for something else. It’s been a blast.”