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MIAMI — At the end of the regular season for the Miami Heat, before knowing their first-round playoff opponent, a majority 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 stay locked in the gym and in film sessions as they prepare to embark on the most important juncture of the season. However, Heat players raved about the trip, saying it was a welcomed excursion that provided a nice mental break and a bonding period beyond the ordinary.
Who initiated this rare pre-postseason getaway has never been disclosed.
When Yahoo Sports asked Heat coach Erik Spoelstra who was responsible for the trip, he offered a hint: “I’ll just say it’s someone we truly admire and respect. You’ll have to find out who on your own."
Two logical candidates were Jimmy Butler and Udonis Haslem. When approached on the subject, each made it clear they did not organize 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 reached out to 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 had all the logistics figured out and I gave him my blessings,” Spoelstra told Yahoo Sports. “There are only about 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 a player.”
Lowry — an NBA champion, a six-time All-Star and a gold medalist — is highly regarded by the franchise, and it’s the central reason why the Heat allowed the guard to orchestrate such a trip.
In his first season with the team, Lowry has earned glowing admiration from the organization and teammates.
However, Lowry's role on the court has prompted debate among observers. He has battled a right hamstring injury throughout the postseason, leading him to being in and out the lineup.
Over the last two games in the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics, Lowry has scored a combined three points on 1-of-12 shooting in an average of 23 minutes per game. Overall in this series, he’s shooting 5-of-23. In a pivotal 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-of-6 shooting from the field while accumulating five fouls.
The 36-year-old has been a shell of himself on both ends of the court during this playoff run. He has lacked aggression when in the game.
Reserve point guard Gabe Vincent has proven to be the better option at this point, but Lowry possesses a wealth of postseason experience that is almost certainly factoring into the equation.
“We’re not going to make any kind of deflection or excuse,” Spoelstra said after the loss. “Boston beat us tonight. Let’s be clear about that. There are guys that are far from 100 percent on both sides.”
Lowry isn’t the only one struggling. Over the last two games, the trio of Lowry, Butler and Max Strus is a combined 8-of-60 shooting. Strus is 0-for-16 from the field and 0-for-11 from three in that span.
Butler is clearly dealing with continual 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 all that he can to be available for Game 6.
With the Celtics one win away from advancing to the NBA Finals for the first time in 12 years, there isn’t much tinkering Spoelstra can do to the starting lineup at this point. But if there’s one glaring adjustment on the table, it is what to do with Lowry.
The veteran has earned his respect throughout his prolific career, but it might be time for Spoelstra to make him earn his minutes for this postseason.