Yesterday, after a loss to the Toronto Raptors in overtime likely ended the Miami Heat's playoff hopes, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra made it clear the team has an unexpected role for three-time NBA champion forward Udonis Haslem: playing one more season.
Yup. If the Heat has its way, Haslem will put off any retirement plans or ideas of joining the team's front office to occupy a roster spot for a 17th-straight season. This would allow the team to honor Haslem much as it has Dwyane Wade, without Haslem being overshadowed.
Of course the Heat wants it that way. It makes the most sense. Who would disagree with this idea?
Many Heat fans, that's who. Nope — they'd rather see him retire ASAP so the team can gamble on a mystical developmental unicorn who could hopefully turn into the next rotational player the team will instantly regret overpaying.
The idea of Haslem returning is rubbing some Heat fans the wrong way because they feel the team's last roster position would be better used on a young player or veteran who could step in and play bigger minutes than Haslem. They have their eyes on the court when they should be looking at the bigger picture. It boggles the mind, really.
To those Heat fans, I ask — what can the Heat do with the 15th roster spot that they couldn't do with the 14th? I assume these fans are aware the Heat will undertake a youth movement next season, one that won't have Wade around to bail them out. Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters will likely still be with the team and playing even less than they did this season.
Wake up. Udonis Haslem will do more for the Heat roster next season than any borderline NBA player. The Heat signed a player last week to get to 14, then after Sunday's game cut longtime developmental poster boy Rodney McGruder for tax reasons.
The Heat have a first, second, and third roster spot problem, not a 15th. Haslem is a made man in Miami. He gets a roster spot forever. If you don't understand this, you likely jumped on the Heat bus around the time LeBron did.
If the argument was between a random veteran taking up the 15th spot or a developmental player, the choice would be clear. But this is Udonis Haslem we are talking about. With the Heat likely to try to make a core of Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, and Derrick Jones Jr. next season, I can't imagine a better stabilizing anchor at the end of the bench than Haslem.
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If assistant coach Juwan Howard leaves for the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching job as some expect, Haslem would be needed even more — and as close as possible. Not in a coaches' meeting in the hotel but shoulder-to-shoulder with teammates, teaching them the right way to do it.
If you brag about Miami Heat "culture," you know Haslem is worth his weight in gold as a player. You have no idea if Haslem the coach would have the same impact. There should be no rush to push him out the door. Stop pretending the last roster spot in the NBA needs to be designated for a "project" player.
The Knicks would be better off with Patrick Ewing sitting on their bench. The Spurs would be better this year if Tim Duncan sat next to Coach Pop. And the Miami Heat will always be a better franchise with Haslem the player on its roster.
Any other opinion ignores history and Heat culture ideals, and likely comes from playing too much NBA 2K.