Miami Heat veteran Udonis Haslem is an active member of the team’s roster but has yet to play one minute this entire season, and with only six regular-season games left, the clock is ticking for the 40-year-old forward in more ways than one.
For Haslem’s 18th season in the NBA to count, he needs to at least step onto the court during a regular season, play-in, or playoff game. During the Heat’s 127- 113 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on May 4, Miami’s head coach Erik Spoelstra cleared the bench in the fourth quarter but still didn’t give Haslem the nod.
Spoelstra has never waited this long to put Haslem in the game. While it’s mystifying Coach Spo would wait until the point in the season during which each and every game is so incredibly important to throw in the oldest player in the league, that’s exactly what he’s planning to do.
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“I’m going to make it happen,” Spoelstra said. “And, again, his impact on this team, especially in a year like this, where there’s been just so many unpredictable things thrown at you, to have that kind of leadership in developing and bringing stability to everybody in the locker room, whether you’re young or a 30-year-old veteran, UD is the guy who can bring that kind of leadership and stability.”
For those wondering why the Heat continue to use an active roster spot for a player who doesn’t actually play, Spoelstra believes what Haslem delivers off the court is invaluable.
“You just can’t put a price or an analytic on it. And if you try to explain it to some people, they might not understand. But everybody in this building is really grateful to have UD here providing and doing what he does.”
As for Haslem, he’s not worried about making sure his final NBA season counts. “I’m sure Spo will figure out a way to get me in there for five seconds,” he said, “and I’ll grab 10 rebounds.”
Is Haslem Heading Toward Retirement?
If numbers are any indication, it appears that Haslem is winging up his time as a player in the NBA. Last season, Haslem clocked a total of 44 minutes over four games. During his 2018-2019 campaign, he recorded 74 minutes of play. In the Heat’s 2017-2018 season, he played 72 minutes.
During what’s left of this pandemic condensed season, it’s hard to imagine him clocking even 20 minutes of play. Haslem, who turns 41 in June, trusts that Spoelstra will call his number at some point and isn’t stressing over it.
“I mean, I haven’t thought about it,” said Haslem, who stays conditioned and ready to go. “But I’m sure Spo and our guys keep those things close to hand and understand the importance of that.”
As for whether or not Haslem is ready to hang up his jersey, it seems abundantly clear that he will not be forced out. When he feels it’s his time, he will go. If he wants to return for the 2021-2022 NBA season, the Heat franchise will figure out a way to make it work.
“He’s just an incredible rock of stability and leadership and mentorship,” Spoelstra said during the 2019 NBA Finals. “That’s at all levels. It’s not just to our young players. It’s to our veteran players. And he provides just great guidance and mentorship to this head coach as well. I love him.”