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Heat’s Kyle Lowry calls Toronto return Sunday an opportunity to embrace ‘family’

If there was question of whether Kyle Lowry would make his return to Toronto on the second night of a back-to-back set, it was answered by the Miami Heat guard in a piece posted Friday at The Players’ Tribune.

With the veteran point guard having missed the first three matchups between the teams since he moved on to the Heat in August in NBA free agency, including the Heat’s 110-106 Feb. 1 loss in Toronto, Sunday’s game stood as the last opportunity to make it back during the regular season to where he helped lead the Raptors to the 2019 NBA title.

With Ontario having lifted most COVID-related restrictions, including the cap on crowd size that was in place when the Heat previously visited, a full embrace is expected to follow for arguably the most beloved player for a franchise whose lineage also has included Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Chris Bosh and DeMar DeRozan.

In the piece titled “For My Toronto Family,” Lowry, who spent nine seasons with the Raptors, wrote about the return and seeing former teammates Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, as well Raptors President Masai Ujiri, among others.

“I’m excited as hell to play in Scotiabank Arena again, and to hear Raptors fans do their thing again,” Lowry wrote. “I’m excited to be on a court with Freddy and Pascal and O.G. again — if Masai is big bro, then those are my little bros, and they’re the guys now, they’re taking over. And I’m excited to experience that energy of Toronto basketball again.”

The Heat first will face the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night at the United Center. There also remains the chance that the Heat could face the Raptors in the playoffs, perhaps as early as the first round.

Lowry, 36, was dealt by the Raptors to the Heat in a sign-and-trade agreement for Precious Achiuwa and Goran Dragic, agreeing to a three-year, $85 million contract. He had missed the teams’ first three matchups to attend to a family matter, with Toronto holding a 2-1 lead in the four-game season series.

Of the potential emotion of Sunday night, Lowry wrote: “But I also think it might just be a normal night in some ways, you know what I mean? Because regardless of the jersey I’m wearing, a lot still hasn’t changed . . . and won’t ever change. It’s never going to be a wrap between me and this city. With family, it’s never goodbye.”

Lowry said he likely would have bypassed a return at less than full capacity.

“You know me,” he told the Toronto Star, “I wasn’t going to do that without fans. There’s no way I was going back without fans, no matter what.”

So, instead, expect a Sunday whirlwind.

“I’ll probably come early,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I have to say hello to a lot of people, try see everybody, everyone that was part of my success there.

“It’s going to be crazy, it’s going to be crazy. Got to say thank you.”

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