Udonis Haslem has done a lot of sacrificing during his 14-year career with the Heat — surrendering his body to punishment and often leaving money on the table so the organization could build championship teams with some of his savings.
On Friday, the team captain asked the Heat for a favor, a wish it granted and one he won’t soon forget.
Miami, short-handed down to the league-minimum eight healthy players and facing the defending world champion Cleveland Cavaliers, granted Haslem permission to leave the team to fly to Orlando so he could see his eldest son, Kedonis, a senior offensive lineman at St. Thomas Aquinas, play his final high school game in the Class 7A state championship game.
“I got there right before the game started and I had to leave with like maybe three minutes left in the fourth [to rejoin the team in Chicago]. So I didn’t get a chance to see him afterward, but I texted with him,” the 36-year-old Haslem said of his son, a three-star recruit, according to 247Sports, whose college leader is FIU.
“I missed so much of it [over the years],” Haslem continued.
“Last year, I missed the state championship. I think I might have made like two games this year. I was just happy to be there to support him and show my face and just let him know family is the most important thing.”
The Heat didn’t think twice about granting Haslem permission. Haslem said he called team president Pat Riley shortly after the team completed its shootaround in Cleveland on Friday afternoon and Riley said, “Cool. Go.”
So he did, finding his own means to get to Orlando and then back to Chicago to rejoin the team.
“I mean, I’ve got a great relationship with this organization,” Haslem said. “I’ve been with them a long time. We’ve sacrificed a lot for each other. I think it was a tougher decision for me to ask than it was for them to answer.
“I’m the ultimate professional. I want to be there for my guys whether it’s playing or mentoring or whatever the situation may be. You know, I never really have been in a situation like this. But being it’s my son’s last high school game ever — and also a state championship — I just wanted to be a part of it.”
The Raiders cruised to their third consecutive title, crushing Tampa Plant 45-6. Kedonis, a starter for most of the regular season, came in as a reserve in the title game and played a lot, Haslem said.
“UD has put in 13 years of service with us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You miss so many moments that we felt this would be a moment that he wasn’t going to miss and regret years from now.
“His son is a heck of a football player. He’s going to have a college career ahead of him. It was a blowout game, so it was great that they won the championship and he was able to be there.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ So how much of Hassan Whiteside’s underwhelming performance Friday night against the Cavs was a product of a lack of energy as Spoesltra said versus what the defending league champions did to Miami’s $98 million center defensively by keeping a body on him all night?
“I think it was a bit of both,” said Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, who defended Whiteside for most of the night with some help on the weak side from his teammates.
“We just tried to keep a body on him, and that definitely frustrates players. That frustrates me. When I’m trying to go for offensive rebounds, there’s always a body. Sometimes a player makes you bring your energy down. But that’s what we want. We want to get him out of his game and get him frustrated, and I guess Coach Spo made a coaching decision and they pulled him out.”
▪ LeBron James actually has more former Heat teammates with him in Cleveland (three) than he does still playing in Miami (one) these days.
With Dwyane Wade gone, the only player left who played with James during his four seasons in a Heat uniform is Haslem.
So, naturally, whatever rivalry some fans believe might still be there between James and the Heat really isn’t, at least from his perspective.
“It does feel like a former team, but there are not many ties left besides the coaches,” James said after Friday’s blowout.
“So it doesn’t have that feeling when you go out there. But it hasn’t been like that for a little while for me.”
James’ three former Heat teammates with him in Cleveland are backup center Chris “Birdman” Andersen, reserve forward James Jones and guard DeAndre Liggins, who played in one game for the Heat in March 2014 and won a D-League title with Miami’s affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, last season.
Liggins was presented with his D-League championship ring by the Heat prior to Friday’s game.