While Heat backup center Willie Reed has started rehab after being diagnosed with an inflamed bursa sac suffered Saturday against Indiana, veteran Udonis Haslem is preparing for extended minutes tonight in Dallas.
The 6-foot-11 Reed is not wearing a boot but the injury to his right ankle has him listed as day-to-day. Coach Erik Spoelstra now has to divvy up Reed’s 15 minutes per game and 36-year-old Haslem will be part of that plan.
“UD is so exceptional because he keeps himself ready and when you need him he’s going to be productive and he’s going to help your team,” Spoelstra said. “But then if you’re playing a young guy like Willie there’s nobody supporting him more and infusing such great positive energy to him and so pure about it that Willie feels he can do anything because he has a three-time champion behind him, encouraging him, teaching him, pushing him that I think that’s really elevated Willie’s play.”
Haslem, 36, has not played since Feb. 4, a stretch of eight games. The 6-8 forward/center is averaging 1.9 points and 2.2 rebounds in 16 games. He is second in Heat history with 830 games, 25 from catching franchise-leader Dwyane Wade.
Haslem has embraced his role as the elder statesman and team leader, especially on a rising team with a lot of young players.
“It takes somebody that has great perspective, great leadership responsibility, great maturity to be able to understand and star in that kind of role,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not easy. It’s not for everybody.”
James Johnson, the 6-9 all-purpose sub, also will see minutes at center behind Hassan Whiteside. Johnson has filled that role in several games, most of them during important fourth-quarter minutes.
Miami (27-32) enters tonight’s game having won 16 of 18 and one game out of the final playoff spot in the East.