After re-signing with the Miami Heat earlier this week, Udonis Haslem returns to the only organisation he’s played with for a 14th season. The veteran has seen his playing time diminish in recent years but his veteran leadership is valued by the Heat.
Haslem, 36, will play without Dwyane Wade as his teammate for the first time in his career. Both players started in Miami during the 2003-04 season when Wade was drafted fifth overall and Haslem signed as an undrafted free agent. During their 13-year run as teammates, Haslem and Wade led the Heat to three NBA championships. He envisioned both men finishing their careers in South Beach.
“I never envisioned finishing it without my brother,” Haslem said to reporters Tuesday on a conference call (via Palm Beach Post). “But I think the 13 years that I spent with him, the 13 years that I’ve spent playing with some of the greatest players in the league, the 13 years that I’ve spent in this organisation has prepared me for the next step and that’s to lead this next group of guys and the next generation.”
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Wade seemed intent on re-signing with the Heat when the offseason started. However, with several other free agents (Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson, Luol Deng) and health issues (Chris Bosh) present, the Heat seemed pre-occupied with everything but their franchise star. There were reports that Miami lowballed “D-Wade” with a $10 million per year offer.
Instead of waiting around, Wade elected to sign with his hometown Chicago Bulls on a lucrative two-year, $47.5 million deal. The ordeal had Haslem thinking if he could have done something to help.
“For whatever reason, the organisation and him couldn’t come to an agreement,” Haslem said.
“In hindsight, I don’t know if I should have handcuffed him like Chris Paul did with DeAndre Jordan and made him change his mind. I don’t know if there’s anything I could have done or should have done. I felt like it could have been avoided but for whatever reason it just wasn’t.”
However, life will continue without Wade and the Heat have to get healthy and stay productive. Bosh’s future is questionable as he deals with blood clots. Whiteside is back on a mega deal and will be relied upon heavily. Then, players like Goran Dragic, Justice Winslow, and recent signee Derrick Williams will need to play well to maximise Miami’s potential.
While Haslem admits that imagining a Heat team without him and Wade side-by-side is hard, he’s looking forward to putting everything he learned into practice.
“Right now, it’s not really real,” Haslem said of Wade leaving for Chicago. “I’m not really paying much attention to it. I’m trying not to read about it and I’m trying not to focus on it. I’m just trying to focus on what my next step is as a leader.”