Miami Heat veteran Udonis Haslem will be joining Dwyane Wade when he makes his exit at the end of the season.
The 38-year-old, now the fourth oldest player in the league behind Vince Carter (41), Dirk Nowitzki (40) and Jamal Crawford (also 38 but a few months older), has reaffirmed his plans to call it quits after spending all of his years in the NBA with the Heat.
Haslem went undrafted in 2002 but signed with the team the following year and has since become a part of the Heat's identity. He has been their emotional leader for a very long time and serves as a voice and a mentor in his final year.
With Wade set to retire at the end of the term, the aging forward is keen on following him out the door and is looking forward to spending some quality time with his family.
“I’m gonna call it done too. There’s nothing else left for me to do on the basketball court,” the player told Basketball Insiders. “My kids are getting older, my son is playing college football at the University of Toledo, my 11-year-old is playing travel baseball and I never see him as he’s always out of town. My eight year old is playing travel basketball. There’s so many other things for me to be engaged in right now.”
Haslem has only spent 14 minutes on the floor this season, having appeared in three games. But he has embraced his role and is staying ready for whatever is needed.
“My role is a little bit different now, my role is whatever is needed each night. Being down some guys, I was called upon to play," he explained. "We were down two guys and I was called upon to go out there and contribute and give them some minutes.
“70 percent of the time my contributions are my voice, my leadership, my experience, and everything I can give to these guys.”
Miami has been and will forever remain Wade County. Yet even the legendary shooting guard put on two other uniforms during his career as a player. Haslem, who joined the Heat the same year as Wade, knows no other.
"It’s rare, it’s something I can always take with me," he said. "A lot of guys can’t say that in this league. In this time, you change cities, you change teams, loyalty is kind of forgotten. To be able to say that, to be able to say I played for my organization my whole career, and not just played for one organization but had success individually and collectively as a team.”
“Just a leader, a leader, and a winner. I’m a guy that did whatever it takes to get the job done, I told Dwyane [Wade] that the other day. My motivation whenever I stepped on the floor was to just be a guy that everyone can depend on.
“Playing with LeBron and playing with Chris Bosh, playing with Dwyane, Ray Allen, these superstar kind of guys, I wanted to be a guy that they knew they could depend on every night. Whatever was needed to bring to the table, I was going to bring that.”
What This Means
The Heat will be losing both of their veteran leaders next summer and Erik Spoelstra's job will be a much harder one as a result.
They can make their final season a very memorable one for Heat fans. And, given recent form, a playoff push isn't out of the question for the team.