Advertisement

Heat’s Kyle Lowry says it ‘still feels weird’ to return to Toronto. Also, Lowry on his NBA future

Wednesday marks the fourth game that Kyle Lowry has played in Toronto since leaving the Raptors, but his return continues to be a big deal for Lowry and the city.

“It’s a place I’ve called home forever and I still call home,” Lowry said following Wednesday’s morning shootaround at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto ahead of Wednesday night’s matchup between the Miami Heat and Raptors.

Lowry, who spent nine consecutive seasons in Toronto before joining the Heat as a free agent in the summer of 2021, is considered one of the greatest players in Raptors history. He was a key part of the Kawhi Leonard-led Raptors team that won the NBA championship in 2019.

“I’m so excited to be here with our team and have an opportunity to play in front of these great fans,” Lowry said. “It still feels weird, but it is what it is now.”

While it hasn’t been perfect, Lowry’s time with the Heat has been productive. His first two seasons with the Heat included two trips to the Eastern Conference finals and one NBA Finals appearance.

Lowry, who turns 38 in March, is set to become a free agent this upcoming summer. He wants to keep playing, whether it’s in Miami or somewhere else.

“I want to play. I definitely want to play,” said Lowry, who is due $29.7 million this season in the final year of his three-year, $85 million contract. “I think I still play at a high enough level that I can contribute to a team at a high level. That’s the biggest thing for me is being able to stay healthy and I’m still motivated to play. I still love this game. This game has given me so much and I still feel like I can still help the team. That’s what I want to do is be able to play.”

Lowry was forced to miss extended time last season because of a left knee injury, as Gabe Vincent took over as the Heat’s starting point guard in February and remained in that role through the team’s run to the NBA Finals. It marked Lowry’s first time playing off the bench since the 2012-13 season with the Raptors a decade ago.

But Lowry has been able stay healthy this season, his third with the Heat, returning to his usual role of starting point guard after Vincent left to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency this past summer.

Lowry, who is in his 18th NBA season, entered Wednesday with a career-low usage rate (an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while on the court) of 12.9 percent this season, but he has made a high percentage of the shots he has taken.

This season, Lowry has posted a career-best effective field-goal percentage (field-goal percentage adjusting for made threes being 1.5 times more valuable than made twos) of 59.4 percent and career-best true shooting percentage (shooting percentage that factors in the value of three-point field goals and free throws in addition to conventional two-point field goals) of 62.4 percent behind a career-best three-point percentage of 44.4 percent this season.

Still, Lowry entered Wednesday averaging just 9.4 points and seven field-goal attempts per game this season, which would both go down as his lowest for a season since the 2009-10 campaign. He’s also averaging 4.3 assists (his lowest since 2008-09) and 29.3 minutes (his lowest since 2009-10) per game.

But Lowry has done the little things well this season, entering Wednesday ranked second on the team in deflections (38), first in loose balls recovered (14), first in charges drawn (7), first in assists (82), first in potential assists (176), and the Heat’s offense has scored five more points per 100 possessions when he has been on the court this season.

“He’s been really important for us this year, particularly we’ve had a lot of moving parts and he’s given us a lot more of who he is and who he’s proven to be as a decorated champion over the course of his career,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said when asked about Lowry on Wednesday. “He’s been able to fit in and complement and help a bunch of different lineups play well. I think that’s part of his genius. He just makes teams and units work.

“He knows how to play with the ball and without the ball, he knows how to impact the game defensively. He knows how to do a ton of winning plays when we get in close games in fourth quarters. All that stuff we value and it leads to winning.”

With Lowry declaring Wednesday that he wants to play at least one more season, he would join an exclusive group of NBA players to have a career that has lasted 19 seasons. Only 10 players in NBA history have remained in the league for 20 or more seasons.

“Whatever the mind and the body [tells me], and my kids are getting older,” Lowry said when asked if he wants to reach 20 NBA seasons. “I want to be able to see them and hang out with them a lot more.”

One thing is for sure, though, Lowry wants to retire as a member of the Raptors.

“I’m definitely retiring as a Raptor,” he said. “That’s something I’ve said since I left here. I will sign that one-day contract and I will retire as a Toronto Raptor.”

INJURY REPORT

The Heat ruled out Bam Adebayo (left hip contusion), R.J. Hampton (right knee sprain), Tyler Herro (right ankle sprain), Haywood Highsmith (lower back contusion), Dru Smith (right ACL injury) and Cole Swider (G League) for Wednesday’s game in Toronto.

That leaves the Heat with 11 available players against the Raptors.