Udonis Haslem maintains a unique place in the NBA, a talisman of the Heat and their culture who barely steps on the court — he has played 46 minutes this season — but whose impact in the locker room and across the organization is difficult to overstate.
Before this, his 20th season, Haslem said this one would be his last. Haslem is not a guy who minces words, but if anyone doubted that he was stepping away, he cleared it up in comments to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald.
“I’m done,” Haslem said. “I’m done no matter what happens. I gave my contribution. I think at this stage, there needs to be another voice for these guys. It’s time for somebody to step up and be the voice.”
Haslem will still have some voice in the organization but it will be different. He also will be honored in a couple of ways in the coming weeks and years: Later this month, section 305 of the (currently named) Miami Dade Arena will be christened the Haslem section for Mr. 305. The team will retire his jersey down the line, Pat Riley has said.
How much longer this season goes on for Haslem and the Heat remains to be seen. Widely seen as a fringe contender and likely top-six team in the East this season, the Heat have not lived up to that billing — due to surprisingly poor 3-point shooting, plus injury and depth issues — and sit seventh in the East, 2.5 games back of the Nets and the final spot to avoid the play-in. Miami has not been consistent enough this season to make anyone think they are lock to climb into that top six or to be a postseason threat to the top teams in the East.
This is a team that could use some more of Haslem’s words and locker room magic down the stretch.