Lead without playing: the 100 lives of Haslem, the soul of the Heat

Seven games and a total of 71 minutes. It is what Udonis Haslem has played this season, a rare case to the point of exceptionality, a role that only he represents and that no one has been playing for so long. The power forward has had seasons of playing fewer games, but the downward trend in recent years suggested that his influence in the merely sporting part had gone from being insignificant to non-existent, and that his weight in the locker room increased as his playing minutes decreased. Some that are already conspicuous by his absence and that have been fewer than ever in a career that ends after 20 seasons, all of them linked to the Miami Heat, with whom he has won the titles of 2006, 2012 and 2013. He has seen Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, Chris Bosh or Dwayne Wade pass by, just a few prominent names in an infinite string of players who have come and gone from Miami without Haslem, that immovable being, changing his shirt or heading for a retirement that now, at 43, has become effective.

At the moment, he is still part of a squad in which he has no participation on the track but in which he greatly influences the social part. In fact, He is the soul and heart of the locker room, the man who maintains the chemistry of the group, instructs the youngest and works on variants such as leadership or game management in the most veteran. That is what he has done this year with Jimmy Butler in the same way that he has done with Goran Dragic in the last five years. And his wisdom and leadership, despite not having changed on the track, have multiplied in playoffs, when their extensive experience has served to keep a young and talented group focused that has slipped into the Finals in an unexpected and deserved way. We have seen Haslem address the players individually, but also speak in timeouts. is the Heat Culturewhose existence Haslem has sponsored, which is part of the history of a franchise that is his.

The role of the former player has been enhanced in recent years. A year before Wade left for Chicago, the power forward played only 37 games, none of them starting. His figure, however, was life insurance for Spoelstra, who knew that these were years of transition, not always easy, in which the key had to be hit and a new project started. That year, Haslem then averaged only 7 minutes per game, although he had not exceeded 20 for three years. In the next three seasons, his role was minimized to the extreme: 16, 14, 10 and 4 games. In those five seasons, he accumulated a total of 81 games, only 2 starts. And 580 total minutes, something that accumulated does not exceed the total of any other course in his career, beyond 2010-11, in which he spent almost the entire year injured. In the last two seasons, the power forward has not stolen any balls or set up any blocks and has only surpassed ten points in one of his last 81 games played.

From undrafted to leader of the Heat

Haslem not always had this role. Initiating a tradition that Pat Riley has exploited in recent times (with Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, the emerging Caleb Martin…), he arrived in the NBA undrafted in the draft. Before, he had become the player with the most victories in the history of the gatorsat the University of Florida, where he spent four years under the orders of Billy Donovan, today the coach of the Bulls. Before making the leap to the best League in the world, he spent a year at French Élan Sportif Chalonnais. He came to the competition in 2003, the same year as his partner Wade, future stars like Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh or, clear, Lebron James. He slipped into the Second Quintet of Rookies and in his second season he was already the undisputed starter, protecting Shaquille’s back in a course in which the Heat reached the seventh game of the Eastern finals and Haslem averaged, in normal season, 10.9 points and 9.1 rebounds in 33.4 minutes of play. His tenure did not change the following year, with Stan Van Gundy ousted and Pat Riley going down to the benches to conquer the ringthe first for Haslem and the fifth, as head coach, for he Godfather nba. In the Finals against the Mavs, he had 6.5 points and 6.2 rebounds, numbers that seem shy but do not correspond to his greatest value at that time, being key in the defense against Dirk Nowitzki, whom he left at 22.5 points per game (after averaging 26.6 in the regular season) and with averages of less than 40% from the field and barely 25% from triples. Almost nothing.

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Haslem continued to be a key player with the arrival of Spoelstra and gained significant weight in the locker room before LeBron’s arrival. When this occurred, in 2010, he and Wade were the only ones still on the championship team in 2006. Also together with Bosh, they reached four consecutive Finals, winning the rings in 2012 and 2013. Haslem’s role those years had already changed, and in 2009-10 he abandoned a title that he would only recover intermittently during the following years. That yes, two more twisted and a man who strengthened Spoelstra in the locker room, being an extension of the coach and staying by his side after LeBron’s departure in 2014. The one that Riley defined as “the biggest mistake” of the forward career. Back then, Haslem hadn’t averaged more than 10 points per game since 2008-09, and injuries from 2010-11in which he was key when he recovered and reached the playoffs, diminished his explosive physique, which still remains careful and ready whenever Spoelstra calls on him. Something that, it is already known, does less and less.

Now, Haslem is playing in the seventh Finals of his career, the most among active players along with Iguodala and behind only LeBron’s unreachable 10. Spoelstra has always maximized his functions and has kept him close to his person. Like a Riley who, aware of his importance, has not included him in any transfer, paying the veteran’s minimum to a man who has entered, beware, more than 60 million in contracts. In total, he has signed eight in his career, all with the Heat. Both the coach and his mentor, by the way, landed in Florida in 1995. In total they have been linked to the franchise for 28 years… 20 of which have coincided with a Haslem who has been this last year the player with the oldest contract in the competition and the only one who is over 40 years old. And there he continues, immovable, in the franchise that has given him everything and to which he has given everything. A man with more than 6,000 points during his career and who is the top rebounder in Heat history ahead of Alonzo Mourning, being the only undrafted player to achieve something like this. Haslem has eternalized himself, he has made himself and, without being a star, he has managed, with a lot of sacrifice and a partially undervalued role in certain sectors, to be key, in his own way, in the most winning franchise since Jordan’s retirement after the Lakers and Spurs. And next to the Warriors. As said, the 100 lives of Udonis Haslem, the soul of the Heat.

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