MILWAUKEE -- Udonis Haslem stood in front of his stall in the cramped space that is the visiting locker room of The Place of Auburn Hills and thanked his bench mates one-by-one.
“ Rashard Lewis, James Jones, Michael Beasley, Toney Douglas,” Haslem said. He even mentioned by name Justin Hamilton, the 15th man on the bench who was recently added to the team just to fill out the roster.
Haslem officially returned to significance on Friday against the Detroit Pistons and he wanted to recognize the teammates that helped him stay positive through one of the more trying seasons of his career.
“It’s disappointing because you want to get out there and contribute, but you’ve got to stay engaged,” Haslem said. “I took the approach of cheering my guys on and coaching guys when I see different things and making sure I stay involved in everything that’s going out on the floor.”
In the Heat’s locker room, there is a special pact between the players who have sacrificed playing time and individuality to strengthen the Heat’s bench. They know what it feels like to be the “other guys,” and they also know what it takes to stay in game shape night after night when they might never play.
Before every home game and sometimes on the road, the back-of-the-bench guys play pick up games of three-on-three together to stay in shape and keep morale high.
“We keep our rhythm going, we keep each other in shape, we keep each other encouraged and when we have an opportunity, we perform,” Haslem said.
The Heat’s final three-game road trip of the season was an important one for Haslem. Called upon to perform against the Indiana Pacers, he delivered.
Haslem limited Pacers center Roy Hibbert in the final five minutes of the first half and then in the second half as well. On Friday, Haslem scored a season-high 17 points against the Detroit Pistons. On Saturday, Haslem started his second-straight game and turned in another strong performance.
Officially, Haslem filled in for center Greg Oden in the starting lineup, but Haslem might be the Heat’s answer at center for the playoffs. Oden, meanwhile, injured his back against the Pacers, missed his second consecutive game on Saturday, and will be further evaluated by the team’s medical staff in Miami.
This and that
• Dwyane Wade, who strained his hamstring against the Pacers on Wednesday, missed his second game in a row and once again was replaced in the starting lineup by James Jones. Wade has missed 21 games this season, or more than a quarter of the 82-game schedule. It was Jones’ 13th appearance of the season.
“I’m just doing my job and helping my team win,” Jones said. “I can’t say I go out there every night and get stats and play minutes and produce on the court, but the work that I put in behind the scenes in practice and individually, it’s tough when you try to pair that with the lack of playing time.
“It’s tough to push through it sometimes, but my bigger goal and my teams bigger goal is to win.”
• Starting point guard Mario Chalmers missed his second game with a bruised thigh.