Udonis Haslem on current Heat roster: ‘These are Miami Heat guys, there’s no doubt about it’

MIAMI — The Heat’s offseason began in the middle of April. But Heat players have been far from “off” since their season ended on April 12.

After falling one game short of making the playoffs, there has been a consistent player presence at AmericanAirlines Arena over the past few weeks as they continue to hold workout sessions and get some basketball drills in on the team’s practice court. An off-site spinning class that included Hassan Whiteside, Rodney McGruder, Okaro White, James Johnson and others was documented on social media in May.

Miami Heat center Willie Reed (35) forward James Johnson (16) and guard Wayne Ellington (2) return to the court after a time out during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Pistons 116-103. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

“We really enjoy each other’s company,” 14-year NBA veteran Udonis Haslem said Saturday at the Mountain Dew NBA 3X tournament at Bayfront Park. “We really enjoy the opportunity to have fun and spend time together. I think when you play this game and you’re traveling and competing, you’re so caught up with what comes with the game. When you’re off sometimes, you forget to have fun. In this business, you forget how lucky and fortunate and how blessed you are to play this game. This team never forgot that. I think that was one of our strengths and why we made a run down the stretch.”

A run that left the Heat wanting more.

Miami bounced back from an 11-30 start to record a 30-11 record over the second half of the season to finish 41-41. The Heat became the first team in league history to go from 19 under to finish the season at .500, but they still missed the playoffs.

“I would have loved our chances in the first round [of the playoffs] and take it from there,” Heat forward Justise Winslow said Saturday. “I think guys are using that as motivation. We know that feeling of being right there. We know that feeling of being counted out, being underdogs. We use that as fuel.”

[Heat mailbag: How important is this offseason for Justise Winslow?]

[Udonis Haslem on the summer: ‘I think the goal is to keep the group together’]

Haslem — who turns 37 on Friday — has been one of the driving forces behind the Heat’s early offseason work. As the team captain, Haslem has already worked out a few times with impending free agent Dion Waiters and has made sure to stop in at AmericanAirlines Arena to catch up with other teammates.

“In the midst of keeping myself in shape and keeping myself healthy, I’m also making sure those guys are staying in shape, staying healthy and doing the things that they’re supposed to be doing,” Haslem said. “The thing about this team is that there’s no mandatory, no coaches. It’s just guys showing up. Me in the league 14 years in, I pop in once a week, twice a week. I get a workout with the guys, get up some shots, talk some crap, crack some jokes, just see how everybody’s doing. We always stay connected.”

But, will this current Heat team stay connected past this offseason?

James Johnson, Luke Babbitt and Haslem are set to be unrestricted free agents this summer, and Waiters and Willie Reed have already informed the Heat they intend to decline the player options in their contracts to become unrestricted free agents. Miami also has a decision to make regarding Wayne Ellington, as it has a team option worth $6.3 million to bring him back.

It’s that uncertainty that has kept this Heat roster on edge, even during the season. And it’s carried over into the offseason.

“You take a bunch of guys with the mentality of myself and put them on a one-year contract and this is what you’re going to get,” Haslem said. “You’re going to get guys busting their ass in the gym every day because their life depends on it. Because these guys understand what a luxury it is to be in this league. This league is not all chalked up to be what it is. You get drafted top 10, you think it’s all peaches and cream from there. But all of a sudden you bounce around to a couple teams and reality starts to set in. So, like I said, it was definitely by design. We brought the tougher guys in. These are Miami Heat guys, there’s no doubt about it.”

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

Reader Comments 0

0 comments