Miami Heat point guard Kyle Lowry has been a steady presence in the starting lineup for nearly his entire career.
The veteran had started 677 consecutive games that he was active for, dating back to his rookie season with the Toronto Raptors.
But after returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for 15 games, Lowry was forced to adjust to a new role: coming off the bench.
“It’s different,” Lowry said Friday. “But right now I’m just trying to help my team win and they just want to kind of ease me back in. Whatever decisions coach makes long term, that’s going to be that. But right now it’s about staying healthy and getting myself in rhythm and in shape.”
The 36-year-old Lowry played 36 minutes in his first game back from injury — an overtime loss to Orlando on March 11 — then played 19 and 20 minutes against Utah and Memphis on March 13th and March 15th, respectively. He has averaged 9.7 point, four assists and 2.3 rebounds across those three games.
“We’re trying to figure this out, and it’s really more of a health issue than it is a performance issue or even strategy concern,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Want to make sure that he continues to feel good and then we can hopefully scale more minutes. But what we saw the other night was one of those great benefits and luxuries of having a Hall of Fame point guard be able to organize that group.”
Lowry said he has been “very involved” with the plan to get him on the court and up to speed while protecting his health.
“Everything I do, I’m involved in,” Lowry said. “We’ve been on the same page, coach and I, medical and I. Everybody is on the same page. We’re just trying to over-communicate right now.”
With Lowry on the bench, Gabe Vincent has been the Heat’s starting point guard. Lowry credited Vincent, who is in his fourth NBA season, and said he wants Vincent to keep improving.
“I think he’s been unbelievably great,” Lowry said. “I think he’s going to just continue to get better and get more confidence with reps. For me, it’s just about making sure he sees the game. But I think he’s done a great job of having a feel for it. When you got two guys like me and Gabe where we just really want each other to be successful, it works out.”
Whether Lowry is starting for the Heat or playing in Miami’s second rotation, Spoelstra said his experience shows when it comes to getting players the ball at the right moment.
“He just makes the right plays at the right time, and guys love playing with him,” Spoelstra said. “How could you not? He gets you the ball in the right spots. He’s always thinking about getting guys open shots.”