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Kyle Lowry re-signs with Raptors to challenge weakened Eastern Conference

Toronto is bringing the gang back together and Lowry isn’t going anywhere.

NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Marquee free agent point guard Kyle Lowry has re-signed with the Toronto Raptors, he announced on The Players’ Tribune on Sunday. He rejoins the Raptors on a three-year deal worth nearly $100 million, per The Vertical’s Shams Charania.

Lowry made his third straight All-Star appearance in Toronto last season in a career year, averaging 22.4 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game on 41 percent three-point shooting. The All-Star guard helped lead a Raptors cast of DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Jonas Valanciunas, and later Serge Ibaka to the Eastern Conference’s third seed.

But the 31-year-old floor general suffered an injury to his shooting wrist right before the All-Star break. By the time he returned with four games left on the schedule, the Raptors had shaken up the roster with deals for Ibaka and P.J. Tucker.

As Toronto attempted to develop chemistry on the fly, Lowry’s postseason struggles continued. He averaged 14 points per game on just 28 percent three-point shooting in the Raptors’ first-round playoff series against the Bucks. Lowry then sprained his ankle in Game 2 of Toronto’s second-round series against Cleveland and watched his team get swept from the sidelines.

Still, Lowry was expected to be the most coveted free agent point guard behind Stephen Curry, who re-signed with the Warriors for a record $201 million supermax contract. The veteran guard is a bulldog, known best for his toughness as an undersized defender, and is one of the better shooters coming off of screens in the NBA.

The move means the Raptors are playing to win now

Toronto president Masai Ujiri hinted towards a youth movement earlier in the off-season. His point guard’s free agent status was in flux, and it was unclear if this team as currently constructed could compete with the East’s elite.

But then a series of trades drastically shifted the NBA’s balance of power from the East to the West.

First the Chicago Bulls traded Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves for a trio of young players, most notably Zach LaVine coming off of a torn ACL. The deal renders the franchise obsolete as they build for the future.

Next, the Pacers traded Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. In doing so, they lessened their own odds at returning to the playoffs next season while sabotaging the Celtics’ odds at forming the next super team.

Many believed the Celtics would trade for George and then sign Gordon Hayward to create a four-pronged attack in Boston with offensive-savvy head coach Brad Stevens calling the shots. George’s trade to Oklahoma City means the idea of a Celtics Big 4 could be dead in the water, making the Miami Heat a real option for Hayward in free agency.

If the Celtics fail to improve, Lowry’s return affords him a summer’s worth of gelling with his teammates. Should the Raptors bring back Ibaka as well, Toronto could usurp Boston and Washington as the clear No. 2 in the weakened East behind the Cavaliers.