While Dwyane Wade hasn’t wavered on his decision to retire at the end of the 2018/19 season, longtime Heat teammate Udonis Haslem has been less certain about his future plans. Haslem initially suggested he would likely call it a career after the season, but recently said he remains undecided. Now, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, Haslem is tentatively planning to return to the Heat for 2019/20.
“I am leaning towards doing one more season,” Haslem said to Jackson. “But it’s not 100 percent. For me, physically and mentally I’m still 100 percent engaged to help these guys get where they need to go. It’s just about the time. Is it time to do something different?”
Haslem and Wade came into the NBA together, joining the Heat in 2003. Wade briefly left South Beach for ill-fated stints with the Bulls and Cavaliers in recent years, but the two veterans have otherwise been together with the Heat for their entire NBA careers. Still, Haslem tells Jackson that he doesn’t feel as if the two friends need to retire at the same time.
“I’m leaning toward [playing another season] because as I watch Dwyane go, it’s more and more clear to me that even though we came in together and want to finish together, our careers have taken different paths,” Haslem said. “That doesn’t mean we’re separated. But our careers have gone different ways. We started together and are going to finish here together, but it doesn’t mean we have to finish at the same time. That’s something that becomes more and more clear as you watch these paths go the way they’re going.”
Haslem, 38, hasn’t played major minutes for the Heat in years, having averaged no more than 8.1 minutes per game since the 2014/15 season. In 2018/19, he has played just four times, logging 15 total minutes. However, the big man’s value in the locker room and on the bench more than makes up for his limited on-court contributions, teammate Goran Dragic explained last spring.
“It’s really tough to explain to people outside what he means to this team,” Dragic said at the time. “Everybody is looking, ‘OK, he’s not playing,’ but they don’t know how much he brings to this team, especially with his experience and leadership.”
The Heat’s offseason plans are unlikely to be impacted by Haslem’s decision, since he’d simply fill out the 15-man roster on a minimum salary deal if he returns.