Before the Heat opened camp in the Bahamas last Monday, Udonis Haslem spent roughly seven weeks serving as the team’s offseason drill sergeant once the calendar turned to August.
He organized afternoon workouts and often made late night phone calls to see who he could drag back out onto the court with him for midnight hoop sessions. Haslem wanted to see who was really hungry and willing to go the extra mile like he has for so many years.
Not only would Willie Reed pick up the phone for Haslem, he would often beat him getting back to AmericanAirlines Arena, where Haslem, 36, would spend an hour or two working on everything Reed, 26, needed to know now that he’s in position to become backup center to Hassan Whiteside.
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They worked on the same 15-footer Haslem knocked down for years. They worked on positioning in the paint. All the while, Haslem felt like he was looking in a mirror.
“I look at him man and I just see so much of myself and where I was at 14 years ago,” Haslem said of Reed, who after shining for the Heat in summer league ball two summers ago and spending his first season in the NBA last year with the Brooklyn Nets, found his is way back to Miami this summer on a two-year, $2.1 million deal.
“He has a good basketball IQ. Like I said, he’s a guy who one night it could be 10 points, 10 rebounds or it could be two points, three blocks, four steals with his energy and his effort. Because he has a motor, too. He’s a guy who is similar to me, too, with his motor.”
The Heat, in the midst of a roster revamp after the loss of starters Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Joe Johnson in free agency — and now the recent declaration by team by Pat Riley that 11-time All-Star Chris Bosh likely won’t play for the organization again — is looking for players like Reed, a former D-League All-Star who spent three years in the NBA’s minor leagues, to emerge this season.
Reed (6-11, 245) made an impression with the Heat in the 2015 NBA Summer League, making four starts and averaging 13.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 25.5 minutes while shooting 60 percent from the field. But then the Nets signed him. He ended up making two starts for Brooklyn, while averaging 4.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 10.9 minutes.
When he hit free agency this summer, Reed asked his agent to reach out to the Heat, and Miami was interested.
“He had that opportunity in Brooklyn and we really celebrated it with him because he earned it,” coach Erik Spoelstra said this week in the Bahamas.
“He has a great motor. I really like the pace of play that he brings out there. He’s aggressive on the offensive glass. He’s an aggressive pick-and-roll player, brings a great energy out there on the court. He’s vocal. We’ve had success with bigs like that.”
Reed, who went undrafted out of St. Louis in 2011, has always been a hard worker. He said his wife, Jasmin, usually tags along with him and rebounds during his late night hoop sessions. Now, Reed says, his son Nathaniel, who turns 3 in January, is beginning to help out.
“My wife is one of those ones who, even when she was pregnant with my youngest son, she would rebound for me,” said Reed, who also has a seven-month old son named Nicholas. “She’s a diehard basketball fan. She’s at every game. So I’m just excited we get to share this dream together and we’re going to continue to make the best of it and take advantage of all God’s blessings.”
A part-time poet ( you can follow him on Snapchat @ShowtimeReed33 to catch his occasional poems), Reed said he adjusted the position of his elbow this offseason to improve his free-throw shooting. Last season, he shot 54.5 percent from the charity stripe and knows he has to get better — like Whiteside did last year — if he’s going to play meaningful minutes.
“I haven’t tried the jump free throw,” Reed said smiling. “I have to find what works for me and I know that’s going to be key. The more free throws I make in clutch situations the more I can be on the floor.”
And that’s all really Reed wants to do. He wants to prove he belongs, like Whiteside, like Haslem, and so many of his new Heat teammates, who climbed from the bottom to the top. He’s got a believer in Haslem.
“I’m a big believer in body language and facial expressions,” Haslem said. “Willie never has bad body language, never gives any negative facial expressions. It’s only positive. For me, in this day and age, in this era, it’s rare for a young kid to be like that.”