Jimmy Butler is expecting a gift from Kyle Lowry.
“I hope that [guy] knows my daughter’s birthday is tomorrow and I want a really expensive gift,” Butler said as he finished his postgame media session late Thursday night. “$100,000 plus, Kyle. $100,000.”
Whether Lowry fulfills Butler’s expensive wish is still up in the air. But it’s evident that Lowry’s presence has already been a gift for the Heat, especially for the team’s leading duo of Bam Adebayo and Butler.
Lowry scored just five points on 1-of-8 shooting in the Heat’s season-opening 137-95 blowout win over the Milwaukee Bucks at FTX Arena on Thursday night, but he still managed to make an impact despite an inefficient scoring night.
How? By simply being a veteran point guard who can run the Heat’s offense.
“Kyle gets everybody involved, so me and Jimmy can focus on scoring and being aggressive and then after that making plays,” Adebayo said, with the Heat traveling to face the Indiana Pacers on Saturday (7 p.m., Bally Sports Sun). “But from the initial, it will be Kyle playmaking and getting us involved.”
The offseason addition of Lowry, 35, has altered the offensive roles of Adebayo and Butler.
Adebayo and Butler played as the primary facilitators for so many possessions last season, and they still will for some possessions this season. But the Heat’s two best players also feel more more comfortable using a score-first mentality this season with Lowry taking over as the point guard and director of the Heat’s offense.
“Kyle is always looking to pass the ball to guys and get them easy buckets, get them in their spots,” Butler said. “I think I get to focus on putting the ball in the basket a lot more. I like that, I work on it consistently. I think these guys in this locker room feel comfortable with me shooting any shot, with [Tyler Herro] shooting any shot, Duncan [Robinson], Bam, all the way down the line. With Kyle playing the way he plays, it gives everybody freedom to just hoop.”
That was on display in the season opener, with the Heat totaling 137 points (tied for the fifth-highest it has scored in a game in franchise history) despite a quiet scoring night from Lowry.
Adebayo took a more assertive offensive approach, finishing with 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field and 2-of-5 shooting from the foul line to go along with 13 rebounds in 23 minutes. It marked the first game in Adebayo’s NBA career that he has taken at least 13 shots from the field and five free throws in while playing 25 or fewer minutes.
Adebayo, who averaged 5.4 assists last season, finished with one assist on Thursday.
“I mean, it’s really because of Kyle, in all honesty,” Adebayo said when asked about his aggressiveness on the offensive end. “The way he pitches the ball ahead, the way he keeps the pace going. I feel like it’s a big part of Kyle. He knows how to get other people involved. His biggest thing is to get me and Jimmy to our spots.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra credited Adebayo’s growing offensive game to “the constant evolution of a great player.”
“Each year, he has added to his game and we continue to try to maximize all the different areas on the floor with him as a playmaker, as a screener, as a post-up player, on the elbow, all of these things are going to help our team and add to the menu and our versatility and our diversity,” Spoelstra said. “All that stuff, his ability to be assertive just helps everybody.”
As for Butler, he still managed to dish out six assists on Thursday. But he also found himself scoring 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and 9-of-11 shooting from the foul line in 29 minutes.
It represented just the eighth game in Butler’s NBA career that he has taken at least 10 shots and 10 free throws in while playing 30 or fewer minutes.
“I feel like Jimmy is in a mode where he’s looking at the rim first, also,” Adebayo said. “He makes plays from there.”
Every night won’t be like Thursday night, when Miami shot 53.1 percent from the field and 15 of 35 (42.9 percent) from three-point range, committed only 11 turnovers and posted an offensive rating of 128 points scored per 100 possessions. That would have been the the third-best single-game offensive rating last regular season.
But Thursday night was a glimpse of how smooth the Heat’s offense can look with Lowry at point guard. Even sixth man Tyler Herro felt the Lowry effect, as he scored a team-high 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting off the bench.
“I love playing with Kyle,” Herro said. “My first two years in the league, I didn’t really have a point guard that can get everyone organized into their spots. That’s no knock on my previous teammates. It’s just the way that Kyle gets everyone to their spots, how he’s a leader. He just understands the game at a level that not many people do.”
Lowry is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against the Pacers because of a sprained left ankle. He left Thursday’s season opener briefly in the second quarter after turning the ankle, but returned to play 6:59 in the second half and finish the game.
Heat center Dewayne Dedmon is also questionable for Saturday’s contest because of a sprained right ankle. Both Lowry and Dedmon traveled with the team to Indianapolis.
The only other player on Miami’s injury report is guard Victor Oladipo, who remains out as he continues to recover from May knee surgery. Oladipo did not travel.