Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry doesn’t know where his future lies after this season or even after this year’s trade deadline. But he is sure of one thing: Whenever his career comes to an end, he will be retiring in a Raptors uniform.

“Let me say this: I will retire as a Toronto Raptor,” Lowry said after the team practiced Wednesday night ahead of the start of the second half of the season in Tampa, Florida, against the Atlanta Hawks.

What Lowry wasn’t willing to commit to, however, was returning to Toronto as a free agent when his contract expires this summer, or even to say definitively that he will be with the team past the trade deadline in two weeks.

“What I would like to see is to finish this season out as strong as possible,” Lowry said.

“At the end of the day, myself, my agent, the organization, everyone has to do what’s best for them, right? Everyone has to do what’s best for them, and that situation.

“Who knows what that is, right? Who knows what that’s going to be, who knows what that time is going to tell? For me, I know I’m still playing at a good enough level where I can help a team, I can help us, and get better.”

Lowry’s name has repeatedly surfaced in recent weeks as a potential trade target for teams. The Raptors are sitting two games under .500 after being among the best teams in the East the past several years, and the trade market itself is sparse after so many star players have either changed teams or signed extensions with their current ones in recent seasons. He could be the biggest impact player available.

That is, if Lowry is actually available. Lowry, as he has done repeatedly, praised the team’s young core of Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell for their growth.

But he didn’t expand much on his future, besides pointedly taking aim at a recent report that he had told people he was leaving Toronto, something he said wasn’t true.

“I don’t really get into that stuff, and it doesn’t bother me because rumors are rumors and they will always be,” Lowry said. “But when something is said that doesn’t verbally come from me and I haven’t said anything, that’s when it gets to the point of, ‘Did you have me on record saying that? I want to know who the source is, because the source is me.’

“That stuff is where you kind of defend yourself. I don’t really care about it. It’s just to defend myself for a quick second.”

Lowry, who is averaging 18 points, 5.5 rebounds and 7 assists this season, is still playing at a high enough level to both be a swing piece for a contending team at the deadline if he’s traded and to command a hefty salary as a free agent this summer whether he’s traded or not.

Ultimately, though, he insisted he doesn’t know what will happen on either front.

“For me, personally, whatever happens, we’ll see,” Lowry said. “I don’t know. We don’t know. Like, honestly, I don’t know. If I could tell you, if I could look at a crystal ball, I would tell you, but I don’t know what the crystal ball says. I don’t what is going to happen. I don’t know what they’re thinking, I’m thinking. We’ll just kind of get to that point and figure it out from there.”

While the Raptors will remain without several players — VanVleet, Siakam, Anunoby, Patrick McCaw and Malachi Flynn — because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, they will get back head coach Nick Nurse, who has been out since before the All-Star Break.

Nurse said that while he will definitely be coaching against the Hawks, the five assistant coaches who had also been in protocol with him were still possibly not going to be able to join him for that game.

Nurse took time Wednesday to defend himself and his coaching staff after a report came out last week saying they were at fault for not following the protocols.

“I don’t think anybody would have any idea what they’re talking about saying that,” Nurse said. “That is a really unfair, very speculative thing to say, unless you have video evidence of it, because I don’t think it’s very cool to say that.

“I think that our coaching staff has worked their asses off and abided by the rules as best as possible. It’s not easy … the players have a tough job to do, but they’re not wearing masks. The referees have a tough job to do — they’re not wearing masks. The coaches have a tough job to do, and they are wearing masks. It’s a little harder.

“But I think that we’ve come into an unfortunate run. It was certainly not that we’re not really trying to adhere to the protocols as best as possible.”

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