Udonis Haslem wants to continue playing basketball. Confirmed. You can forget about him hanging it up. Return all of those golf clubs and fishing lure retirement gifts — he'll be putting on a jersey next season. Which jersey Udonis dons, though, is a surprising story now. Even more surprising is the fact that his jersey could belong to a team in China, Europe, or any another country overseas.
The Miami Heat wants Udonis Haslem back on its basketball squad, but if the past few seasons are any indication, the team wants him in a role that includes very little basketball and a whole lot more Tony Robbins-like mentoring. They very much want UD back, but they also believe his playing days are behind him.
It seems we have an issue here. Haslem is apparently unready to slowly fade into retirement. He wants to play basketball, and he's making it abundantly clear he's sick and tired of sitting around watching younger guys take all the minutes. So he should go to China, another NBA team, or wherever else the minutes he craves present themselves. He has earned that right, and Miami fans should wish him the best if that's what he wants to do.
For someone who was once one of the top 25 in the world at doing what he does, it's not anyone's place to tell him he can't do it anymore. Haslem should get his. The Heat will be here when he's done. He's a free agent, and if he feels like he still has something left in the tank, who are Heat fans to tell him he isn't allowed to challenge himself? You would want the same opportunity. This isn't the same thing as when Dwyane Wade had a decision to make. Wade was playing 30 minutes a night and asking for $40 million. UD simply wants to contribute off the bench.
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Haslem is 38 years old and coming off his least productive season of his career. Last year, he had career lows in minutes (5.1), points (0.6), and rebounds (0.7) per game. He didn't see the court in the Heat's lone playoff series. For all intents and purposes, Haslem was a player-coach last season, but the ratio of player to coach was 95-5. It's tough to blame the Heat for giving his minutes to younger players such as Jordan Mickey and Bam Adebayo. The Heat has an obligation to its future, not its past. Haslem has the same obligation to his own future. What he does with it is his prerogative.
How can anyone blame him for wanting to see the results of all of his hard work and preparation play out on the court? On the flip side, the Heat also should shoulder no blame for not being able to find minutes for Haslem. If they believe they're a better team without him on the court, that's their right. It's also Haslem's right to find a team that thinks his playing gives it a better chance of winning.
If Haslem believes he's not done leaving some sweat and blood on a basketball court and the Miami Heat is no longer willing to provide that opportunity, even if only for a few minutes a night, he should do what makes him happy.
We'll all be here when Haslem is finished. He'll always be a part of Miami and a Heat legend. A short stint with another team won't change that fact.