For Kyle Lowry, it will be an emotional occasion when he makes his long-awaited return to Toronto on Sunday night to play for the Miami Heat against the Raptors.
Lowry, who played nine seasons for the Raptors, missed the first three games of the four-game season series against his former team because he was out for personal reasons. The Heat acquired Lowry in a sign-and-trade with the Raptors in the offseason.
“I’ve tried to avoid, for a long time, thinking about it, but it’s right here,” Lowry said before the Heat defeated the host Chicago Bulls 127-109 Saturday night, led by Jimmy Butler’s 22 points.
“I’m looking forward to it, just being able to go to a place I’ve called home for so long and a place I still call home, that has a dear and special place in my heart.” Lowry said. “It’s going to be emotional.”
Lowry was a key player in the Raptors’ NBA championship season in 2018-19.
“I’m sure they’ll cheer me for a while, and then if we start to win, boo me,” said Lowry, who had 19 points and 10 assists on Saturday. “It’s all love and it’s just being able to show the appreciation I want to and I’m sure they’ll appreciate me for what I’ve been able to do.”
Lowry also could witness former teammate Fred VanVleet eclipse one of his team records.
VanVleet, who was 5-of-16 from beyond the arc in the road win over the Orlando Magic on Friday, needs three 3-pointers to overtake Lowry’s team record of 238 made 3-pointers for one season set in 2017-18.
“It’s an incredible accomplishment,” VanVleet said. “Obviously, any time you are in a conversation with Kyle and the things he has done for the franchise, it’s a huge honor. It’s been a heck of a year so far. Being able to get that would mean a lot. I think it speaks to the way the game is going and, obviously, my improvement as a player.”
VanVleet said Lowry helped him develop as a player.
“I think, really, just getting, you know, attached to him at the hip and incorporating myself into workouts a little early on,” VanVleet said. “There’s a million different things I could give you that I’ve learned from him.”
The game has implications in the Eastern Conference standings. The Raptors (45-32) have won five in a row and moved into fifth place with Chicago’s loss. The Miami Heat (50-28) are in first place.
“I think over the last couple of weeks, we’ve just been really locked into the game plans and that our attention to detail has been great,” VanVleet said. “We come up with a plan — no plan is perfect, sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad. But as long as we’re all on the same page, we go out there, we give ourselves a chance and we stick together and we play together.”
With a hold on first place, the Heat could rest players Sunday in the second half of back-to-back games.
“I know Kyle is playing, everybody else, we’re going to have to figure it out,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The Heat reached 50 wins for the first time since 2013-14.
“I’ve been paying attention the last week or so, trying to get to 50 (wins),” said Tyler Herro, who had 19 points against the Bulls. “For me, it’s my first time. It feels good.”