Continuity, not conditioning, Kyle Lowry said Wednesday is what derailed his initial season with the Miami Heat.
Addressing a media group for the first time since the day Heat were eliminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals by the Boston Celtics, the veteran point guard alluded to the extended periods he missed at midseason to attend to a family matter.
In Toronto for a golf event for the foundation of Raptors coach Nick Nurse, Lowry again declined to specify the family matter, but did acknowledge the impact.
Signed away from the Raptors last summer on a three-year, $85 million contract last August, Lowry missed nine consecutive games from Jan. 17 to Feb. 1 due to what the Heat listed as personal reasons. He then missed four additional games for those same listed reasons from Feb. 28 to March 3.
While Gabe Vincent performed admirably in Lowry’s absence, continuity stood as an issue throughout the second half of the season and playoffs.
“I’m still dealing with it,” Lowry said of the family issue, with the Heat less than eight weeks from the start of training camp. “It’s a situation when it’s better, I’ll talk about it more. But it’s definitely something that kind of derailed my whole season and kept me derailed for a long time.
“Still, to this day, it’s still something I deal with every single day. I actually got a phone call just now about it.”
The Heat encouraged Lowry to take whatever time was needed.
“It’s life,” Lowry said. “Life happens and you just have to continue to get better and focus on the things you can control and try to help as best you can.
“Because at the end of the day, I can’t do this or that. All I can do is go to people who can help me and hopefully I can help them and we can kind of work together and collaborate.”
The conditioning of the 36-year-old veteran was addressed by both coach Erik Spoelstra and Heat president Pat Riley after the season, with each alluding to the missed time.
“You have to take into context everything: The missed games, injuries. It’s not all apples to apples,” Spoelstra said.
“I think Kyle will come back in the next training camp in the best shape of his career.”
Said Riley, “Kyle had a challenging year for a lot of reasons, and I don’t have to get into ‘em. They’re personal. They’re other things. But he had a challenging year with the move and everything, and earlier in the season he had some injuries, missed some time. There were some personal issues. But, look it, the bottom line with me and for me, as far as hoping that you can get the most out of the player, and I don’t have to go back and talk about it, is that you’ve got to be in world-class shape. You just have to be.”
It is a challenge apparently accepted, with various social-media posts showing a more chiseled physique amid Lowry’s workouts.
“If you know me,” he said, “you know what I do. I don’t talk about it. I just go out there and operate. But we’ll get to that when that time comes.”
Ultimately, it was a hamstring that limited Lowry in the playoffs.
After the Heat were eliminated May 29, Lowry said of his first season with the Heat, “For me, it’s a waste of a year. You’re not playing for a championship, you’re not winning a championship, it’s a wasted year.”
Riley pushed back against that notion, with Lowry on Wednesday softening his stance.
“We had a great year. We were one shot from the [NBA] Finals,” he said of a Jimmy Butler 3-point attempt in the final seconds of Game 7 against the Celtics.
But last season, he said, was unlike the ones that came before, as he dealt with the family issue off the court.
“You have to be strong-minded and you have to be able to say,’ OK, this is one thing but when I’m able to get out here and I’m able to do this other thing, let me turn it off a little bit.’
“But it’s very tough, because as soon as you’re done [with] the activity or whatever you’re doing to take your mind from the thing, then it’s right back to it.”