Udonis Haslem’s Sacrifice

Posted by By at 29 March, at 00 : 04 AM Print

I need to preface this article by saying that Udonis Haslem is my favorite player on the Heat. I am a teacher, and given the opportunity to have one player come to speak to my high school kids there is no doubt I would choose Haslem. Sure, any one of the Big 3 would garner more cool points and the kids would definitely get more money on ebay for the autographs they would ask for, but the truth is, Haslem is probably the guy who would have the best story to tell.

His journey to get to the NBA is a fascinating one. Despite a tough upbringing in Miami, he went on to be a star for Billy Donovan at the University of Florida. He seemed primed to have a solid NBA career, only to see him morph into Oliver Miller and be cut by the Atlanta Hawks. Realizing that all his hard work would be for nothing if he gave up, he went to play professionally in France and work his way back onto the NBA radar through the summer league. All the while he shed 70 pounds, which in and of itself showed teams the commitment they are looking for in a player. All this work eventually landed him in his hometown as an undrafted rookie in 2003, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But with Haslem, the history is much deeper. In sports, words like loyalty and sacrifice get churned out by the cliché machines, but rarely do they carry much weight. That is why Haslem’s example is so unique, and also the reason he is the only holdover from the 2006 championship team not named Dwyane Wade. As a free agent heading into 05-06 season, he turned down more money from the Cleveland Cavaliers to stay with the Heat. Entering this season’s free agent period, he knew the math. He knew there was no way the Heat could sign the Big 3 and keep him around. As fans, we all knew he would probably be leaving. As fans, we were happy that somebody we had seen grow through the years was going to get a well deserved payday, even if it was Dallas or Denver. We knew that Udonis wasn’t betraying us, he was just a victim of the circumstances.

Then, one of the most improbable storylines in the NBA this season started to unfold. Udonis Haslem made Joe Johnson of the Hawks the highest paid free agent of the historic 2010 class.

Haslem was resigned to the fact that he could not resign. Suddenly, Dwyane Wade was taking less money to sign. An impressive gesture, but one not wholly unexpected from Wade. Then something unexpected did happen. Wade asked LeBron James and Chris Bosh to take less money so they could keep Haslem, and they didn’t think twice. Suddenly, Haslem was back in the fold and a key piece of the puzzle was staying.

Then the season got off to a rough start, and during the 13thgame against Memphis. Haslem tore the Lisfranc ligament in his left foot and it was feared that he would be lost for the season.

With 9 games left in the season, Haslem is inching closer to a return. According to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press, he is able to get enough lift off his injured foot to dunk a basketball and is targeting a return to the lineup before the regular season ends.

Undoubtedly, his return would provide a huge emotional boost to the team. If Mike Miller, Haslem’s former college teammate and good friend, received a large ovation when he first checked in for the Heat after his hand injury, imagine the frenzy at the AAA when U.D.  steps on the court. But a lot like Miller, Haslem will be rusty. But unlike Miller, Coach Spoelstra doesn’t have the luxury of time to ease him back into the lineup.

That is why I am asking Udonis Haslem to consider yet another sacrifice in his career. If you come back and are ineffective, be willing to step back and allow the team to win without you.

If Haslem can come back and be the player we are accustomed to, crashing the offensive glass, taking charges and draining wide open jumpers from the elbow, then his addition might be the boost the team needs to advance further in the playoffs.  If he struggles like Miller did, how long does the team give him? Miller’s slow start had his name being tossed out in trade discussion. Fans won’t be willing to immediately discard Haslem, but this is a fickle town and anything short of a title is going to be a disappointment to this fan base.

I really hope Haslem can come back and immediately be U.D., but the nature of his injury scares me. Much like shooter’s need healthy hands, like Miller and James Jones before him have shown, a guy whose game is predicated on jumping and footwork needs to have healthy feet.  The Lisfranc ligament is key in regards to pushing off when running and jumping. Rebounding and defense requires quick feet (a big reason the offensively inept Joel “The Warden” Anthony is so valuable to this team) so we should expect to see quite a bit of rust. For all the rehab he has been doing, conditioning would have been near impossible with a foot injury. Even if he has worked off the rust as he has been able to do more on his feet, you have to expect it will take him some time to get back to game speed.

Haslem was quoted in the AP piece as saying. “It’s looking good. I’m not thinking I’m coming back to play 30 minutes, score 25 points and grab 15 rebounds. That’s not the point. But I do think I can come back and contribute something.”

The question is simple, is a fierce competitor like Udonis Haslem willing to step back for the good of the team if he is not helping them?

Is he willing to make yet another sacrifice in his career?

I hope he does come back and is effective. It would be the best way to repay the faith Dwyane and Co. have in him. If not. I hope he realizes that fans will still consider him a part of the team’s success. He will still be our guy. And anyway, he’ll have a chance to help with championships 3 through 7 in Miami Heat history.

As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or Tweet me @psicher.

Also, be sure to follow @bytimreynolds for a great Heat writer who happens to be a great Twitterer

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  1. Andy Berger, 8 years ago Reply

    Udonis is a piece of the heat puzzle…great character role player…can help the heat go the distance !!! Udonis would except any role the Heat give him just because thats the type of player/person he is!!!

  2. HeatPhan, 8 years ago Reply

    Just his presence will be a huge uplift to this team…GO HEAT…Bosh simply aint cutting it on his own ~~~~ !!!

    • Patrick Sicher, 8 years ago Reply

      Bosh gets a bad rap because of his playing style, but I would venture to say that he has been the most important piece to this Heat puzzle.

      And UD doesnt need to be on the floor to uplift the team.

  3. DonnyRogers, 8 years ago Reply

    Patrick, great piece. Haslem is the forgotten piece to the Heat. It was a huge blow to their season and who knows how they would be playing if they had him manning the post. Watching them lose to Cleveland last night just showed how vulnerable they are without a quality big man!

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