Kyle Lowry ruled out vs. former team, but Heat could get Bam Adebayo back against Raptors

·5 min read
Adebayo photo by Al Diaz and Lowry photo by Daniel Varela

Monday’s game between the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors could mark the return of Heat center Bam Adebayo. But it won’t be the Kyle Lowry-Raptors reunion that was expected.

Lowry has been ruled out of what would have been his first game against his former team since he left the Raptors to sign with the Heat as a free agent last offseason. Lowry, 35, will miss the game because of personal reasons.

But Adebayo has been upgraded to questionable for Monday’s game against the Raptors at FTX Arena (7:30 p.m., Bally Sports Sun) and is on track to make his return after missing the last 22 games following early December surgery on a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb.

“You know how much he cares and puts into this,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Adebayo’s impending return, following the Heat’s 109-98 home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night. “Whenever that day is when he comes back, the night before I’m sure he won’t sleep. A few of our guys have been put in that position, where they’ve been out for whatever injury or protocol or whatever and it makes you appreciate all this even more.”

With Lowry not available against his former team, it eliminates one of the story lines surrounding Monday’s contest. Lowry’s former Raptors teammates and coach Nick Nurse spoke about what it would be like to play against him before news surfaced that the veteran point guard would miss the game.

“I assume that he’s gonna be ready to go, and he’s gonna be hard to handle,” Nurse said. “It’ll be interesting to see where they put him matchup wise and all those kinds of things and I don’t really have much to say other than I would imagine he’s gonna play super hard and he’s going to get his guys ready. And when he does that, good things happen. We know that, right? He’s one of the best at getting the other guys to come with him and get ready to play hard and play great basketball.”

Lowry, who spent the previous nine seasons in Toronto and is considered one of the greatest players in Raptors history, was a key part of the Kawhi Leonard-led Raptors team that won the NBA championship in 2019. He holds a team-best plus/minus of plus-138 in his first season with the Heat, helping to lift Miami to one of the best records in the Eastern Conference at 27-16.

The two players the Heat dealt to the Raptors to acquire Lowry through a sign-and-trade: Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa. Dragic remains away from Toronto because of a personal matter, but Achiuwa is expected to play against Miami on Monday.

“I’m really enjoying the collaboration and the opportunity to work together,” Spoelstra said of Lowry. “I’ve admired his approach and his competitive spirit and his know-how on how to win basketball games. I’ve just always marveled at that. He’s such a great competitor. The way he is and his make up is everything that we’re about. I love watching him compete every night. He’s a maestro in terms of how he can dictate a game and manipulate it, and he can do it on both ends of the court.”

Lowry will have another opportunity to play against his former team soon with the Heat again hosting the Raptors on Jan. 29. The Heat then travels to take on the Raptors in Toronto on Feb. 1 and April 3, with Lowry speaking earlier this season about how emotional he expects his first game back in Toronto to be for him.

But with the Raptors currently not playing in front of fans for their home games because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Lowry’s return to Toronto may look different than many anticipated a few months ago.

“I think the one that was talked about was obviously his return to Toronto,” Raptors guard and Lowry’s former teammate Fred VanVleet said. “Given the circumstances, I think everyone is a bit more cloudy.”

With Lowry not part of Monday’s game, the focus will be on Adebayo’s potential return after missing seven weeks of game action.

Adebayo, 24, averaged 18.7 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 18 games this season before injuring his thumb during a Nov. 29 loss to the Denver Nuggets. Somehow the Heat managed to overcome his absence to post an impressive 14-8 record while Adebayo has been out.

Rookie Omer Yurtseven and veteran Dewayne Dedmon have provided quality minutes at center with Adebayo unavailable.

“I was just talking to him on the bench about that,” Heat wing Caleb Martin said when asked about Adebayo’s upcoming return. “Just how awesome of a day it’s going to be just to have him back and how lit the arena is going to be to see him back. We were just talking about it. You can tell he’s itching bad. ... Obviously, we’re all ready for Bam to come back.”

Along with Lowry, the Heat ruled out Markieff Morris (return to competition reconditioning), KZ Okpala (wrist sprain), Victor Oladipo (knee injury recovery) and Chris Silva (ineligible to play) for Monday’s game against the Raptors.

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