NBA shutdown giving Heat’s Udonis Haslem reason to consider another season

Tribune Content Agency

If the Miami Heat plan to retire Udonis Haslem’s No. 40 jersey, they just might have to rip it off his back.

Joining former Heat teammate Caron Butler on NBA TV’s Game Time, Haslem said he might not be the retiring type in the wake of how this season has played out.

With the NBA shut down since March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and with no certainty of play being resumed, Haslem, 39, said he again finds himself at a crossroads amid this 17th NBA season — all with the Heat — being interrupted.

“I mean,” he said, “it has been a great run, man. It’s been something that I’ve been thinking about.”

A year ago, amid Dwyane Wade’s final season, Haslem spoke of creating a closing scenario of his own, one that included leaving the team on a winning note, after last season’s lottery finish.

But now there is no certainty that his 10-minute stint on Feb. 22 against the Cleveland Cavaliers at AmericanAirlines Arena, the night Wade’s No. 3 jersey was retired, won’t stand as his last NBA action.

Thus, the conflicting emotions.

“From everybody that I’ve talked to and from everything that I’ve done and sacrificed, one thing that I’ve always wanted is to be able to do is leave this game on my own terms,” Haslem said from his Southwest Ranches home. “Another thing that I’ve always wanted is to be able to have the opportunity to create a pathway for the next generation, as far as passing on the Heat culture. And the third thing that I wanted to do was to be able to leave this game with an opportunity to make a good playoff run.

“All three of those things have been taken out of my control right now. So we’ll just have to see.”

The Heat stand as the No. 4 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, with the league awaiting medical word about whether staging a postseason would be safely possible, even in the absence of fans.

“You sacrifice so much, and you give so much to be able to walk away from this game on your own terms, and be able to walk away the way you like it, not injury, not being run out of the league,” the Heat’s all-time rebounding leader said. “You just want to retire, be comfortable and walk away. You want to pass that culture to the younger guys, because we really believe in culture and the next generation. And you want to go out on a winning note, the way you came in.

“So those are three things that if I could choose, I would like to have those three things — and they’ve been taken away. So it’s something to think about now.”

The Heat captain has played just 21 minutes this season, with his contribution coming largely as mentor, a role that has continued amid the shutdown. In addition to keeping in touch with teammates, Haslem said he recently hosted Heat rookie forward Chris Silva for a workout, with the two socially distanced.

“For me,” he said, “it’s about mastering your role. You can’t pick your role in this league. As much as you might want to fight the coach, as much as you might want to say, ‘I want to get more shots, I want to get more minutes,’ there’s no control that you have over that.

“So, for me, I’ve just tried to master every role I’ve been in. It hasn’t been easy. It’s been a challenge. But to me, I just wanted to be a star in every role that I was in and make sure that there’s value in my role. If you’re going to put me on the bench and I’m not going to play as many minutes as I want, guess what, I’m going to show you that I’m still valued in this role. I can still help in this role.”


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