MIAMI — At the end of the regular season for the Miami Heat, before they knew their first-round playoff opponent, most of the players took a surprise trip to the Bahamas for a few days.
This was not a trip orchestrated by the heat.
Most teams want their players to stay in the gym and at film sessions as they prepare for the most important part of the season. Players raved about the trip, saying it was a welcome outing that provided a nice mental break and a more than usual bonding time.
Who initiated this rare pre-postseason getaway has never been revealed.
When Yahoo Sports Heat coach Erik Spoelstra asked who was responsible for the trip, he refused to reveal, but the coach did offer a hint: “I’m just saying it’s someone we really admire and respect. You have to find out for yourself who that is.”
Two logical candidates were Jimmy Butler and Udonis Haslem. When asked about the subject, both made it clear that they had not organized the trip. They also declined to name the organizer.
A few days later, a league source connected to Heat Wind caught the inquiries and told Yahoo Sports, “It was Kyle Lowry.”
Yahoo Sports reached out to Spoelstra with this new information and he confirmed it.
“Kyle met me and told me what he wanted to do with the team. He handled all the logistics and I gave him my blessing,” Spoelstra told Yahoo Sports. “There’s only a handful of players like Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Udonis Haslem who’ve played for this franchise that I know could have pulled off something like this. It shows you how special Kyle is and how much we really respect him as a person and as a player.”
Lowry — an 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 journey.
But it’s that glowing admiration that has observers wondering if Lowry is being given too much respect when it comes to his role and minutes in this Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics.
In the last two games, Lowry has averaged three points on 1-of-12 shooting in an average of 23 minutes per game. Overall he’s turning 5 of 23 in that series. In a crucial 93-80 loss in Game 5 on Wednesday night to put the Celtics 3-2 up, Lowry had zero points in a 0-of-6 in 24 minutes -Shot off the field while accumulating five fouls.
The 36-year-old was a shell of himself on both ends of the court during that playoff run. He struggled with a right hamstring injury throughout the postseason, causing him to come in and out of the lineup. In the game he lacked aggression.
Reserve point guard Gabe Vincent has proven to be the better option at this point, but Lowry has a wealth of postseason experience that almost certainly feeds into the equation.
“We will not make any distractions or excuses,” said Spoelstra after the defeat. “Boston beat us tonight. Let’s be clear about that. There are guys who are far from 100 percent on both sides.”
Lowry isn’t the only one having problems. Of the last two games, the trio of Lowry, Butler and Max Strus is a combined 8-of-60 shootout. Strus is 0-for-16 from the field and 0-for-11 from three in this span.
Butler is clearly struggling with constant knee pain as he’s not the dominant player he has been in most of those playoffs.
Tyler Herro, the sixth man of the year who missed the last two games with a groin injury, will do whatever it takes to be available for Game 6.
With the Celtics one win away from making the NBA Finals for the first time in 12 years, Spoelstra doesn’t have much to tinker with on the starting lineup at this point. But if there’s one glaring adjustment on the table, it’s what to do with Lowry.
The veteran has earned his respect throughout his successful career, but it might be time Spoelstra got him to earn his minutes for this postseason.