MIAMI — At the end of the Miami Heat’s regular season, before knowing their first-round playoff opponent, a majority of players took a surprise trip to the Bahamas for a few days.
This was not a trip orchestrated by the Heat.
Most teams remain locked in the gymnasium and movie sessions as they prepare to embark on the most important moment of the season. However, Heat players loved the trip, saying it was a welcome excursion that provided a nice mental break and a bonding period beyond the ordinary.
Who initiated this rare pre-post-season escapade has never been revealed.
When Yahoo Sports asked Heat coach Erik Spoelstra who was in charge of the trip, he gave a hint: “I’ll just say he’s someone we really look up to and respect. You’ll have to find out who by yourself.”
Two logical candidates were Jimmy Butler and Udonis Haslem. Asked about the subject, each clarified that he was not organizing the trip. They also declined to name the organizer.
A few days later, a league source with a connection to the Heat caught wind of the inquiries and contacted Yahoo Sports: “It was Kyle Lowry.”
Yahoo Sports approached Spoelstra with this new information and he confirmed it.
“Kyle met with me and told me what he wanted to do with the team. He understood all the logistics and I gave him my blessing,” Spoelstra told Yahoo Sports. “There are only a handful of players like Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Udonis Haslem who have played for this franchise and I know they could have achieved something like that. It just shows you how special Kyle is. and how much we truly respect him as a person and a player.
Lowry — NBA champion, six-time All-Star and gold medalist — is highly regarded by the franchise, and that’s the main reason the Heat allowed the guard to orchestrate such a trip.
In his first season with the team, Lowry earned the admiration of the organization and his teammates.
However, Lowry’s role on the pitch has sparked debate among observers. He battled a right hamstring injury throughout the playoffs, which caused him to be in and out of the lineup.
In the final two games of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, Lowry scored three combined points on 1-of-12 shooting averaging 23 minutes per game. Overall this series, he’s shooting 5 of 23. In a crucial 93-80 loss in Game 5 on Wednesday night to put the Celtics up 3-2, Lowry scored zero points in 24 minutes on 0 shooting on 6 from the field while racking up five fouls.
The 36-year-old has been a shell of himself at both ends of the court this playoff series. He lacked aggression in the game.
Backup point guard Gabe Vincent has proven to be the best option at this point, but Lowry has extensive playoff experience that almost certainly factors into the equation.
“We’re not going to make any sort of deviation or apology,” Spoelstra said after the loss. “Boston beat us tonight. Let’s be clear on this. There are guys who are far from 100% on both sides.
Lowry isn’t the only one struggling. Over the past two games, the line of Lowry, Butler and Max Strus is 8-for-60 combined shooting. Strus is 0-for-16 from the field and 0-for-11 on three in that span.
Butler is clearly struggling with ongoing knee pain as he’s not the dominant player he’s been most of these playoffs.
Tyler Herro, the Sixth Man of the Year who has missed the last two games with a groin injury, will do everything he can to be available for Game 6.
With the Celtics one win away from making the NBA Finals for the first time in 12 years, there’s not much Spoelstra can do for the starting lineup at this point. But if there’s a glaring adjustment on the table, that’s what to do with Lowry.
The veteran has earned his respect throughout his prolific career, but it might be time for Spoelstra to earn his minutes for this post-season.