Former Miami Heat point guard changes tune with new team

Cleveland Cavaliers v Miami Heat
Cleveland Cavaliers v Miami Heat / Rich Storry/GettyImages

Flashback to about four months ago. Kyle Lowry was asked about his role with the Miami Heat this season and bristled at the notion of coming off the bench the way he had during last year’s Finals run.

“I expect to start,” he said during Heat training camp at the FAU campus. 

From that moment, questions about Lowry’s willingness to come off the bench continued to be asked to the 37-year-old point guard and coach Erik Spoelstra. 

Kyle Lowry appears to be willing to come off the bench for the Philadelphia 76ers, something he was reluctant to do this season with the Miami Heat.

Lowry did start for 36 games until Spoelstra, amid the team's offensive struggles, decided to bring him off the bench in a Jan. 19 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

“Hopefully it’s a one-game thing,” Lowry told reporters after the game.

Lowry played only one more game in a Heat uniform, coming off the bench two nights later against the Orlando Magic before the organization decided to trade him and a future first-round pick to the Charlotte Hornets for Terry Rozier.

After the Hornets and Lowry negotiated a buyout, Lowry signed with his hometown Philadelphia 76ers earlier this month.

In his first media appearance as a 76er, Lowry told reporters that he’s willing to play whatever role head coach Nick Nurse asks of him.

“I’m excited to be here,” Lowry said. “I understand my role and my job. My job is to make sure that Tyrese [Maxey] gets better, this team gets to a point they haven’t been in a while and that’s my job. My job is to do everything I need to do to make this team and this organization better. No matter what the role is, what the minutes are, what the situation is. My job is to be a professional.”

This appears to be a dramatic shift in Lowry’s thinking. In Miami, Lowry was adamant about starting while he appears ready to play any role and any allotment of minutes in Philadelphia.

But there are reasons for this. Consider that Lowry did willingly come off the bench for the Heat’s Finals run last year after Gabe Vincent outplayed him as the starting point guard. When Vincent signed with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent last summer, the Heat entered training camp with only two traditional point guards on the roster: Lowry and the unproven Dru Smith. It would make sense if Lowry looked around that locker room and expected to start.

In Philadelphia, Lowry is the clear No. 2 behind Tyrese Maxey, who is the favorite to win the Most Improved Player award and has blossomed into the 76ers co-star alongside Joel Embiid. 

Heat fans’ frustrations over how the final weeks of Lowry’s tenure are valid. He averaged the fewest points (8.2), field-goal attempts (6.5) and assists (4) since becoming a full-time starter in 2010, and it became clear that Miami needed more from him to juice its offense. Lowry was unwilling or unable to provide that, and the Heat went in another direction.

In 2021, the Heat traded fan-favorite Goran Dragic and young center Precious Achiuwa for Lowry. They went on to earn the No. 1 seed for the 2021-22 season and lost in seven games to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. Lowry averaged 26 minutes per game off the bench during Miami’s surprising run to last year’s Finals as the No. 8 seed.

Lowry, who was last named an All-Star in 2020, averaged 11.4 points on 42.5% shooting and 5.8 assists in 2 ½ seasons in Miami. 

The Heat have revamped the point guard rotation this season. With Lowry in Philadelphia and Smith out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, Miami has replaced them with Rozier and Delon Wright, who recently signed after a buyout with the Washington Wizards.

The Heat are 4-6 in games with Rozier, who missed the last two before the All-Star break with a knee sprain. He is expected back in the next few weeks. The Heat won six of their last eight games going into the All-Star break. The season resumes Friday against the Pelicans in New Orleans. They will play the 76ers in Philadelphia on March 18.