Heat forward Udonis Haslem made sandwiches at the grand opening of his Subway in Hollywood’s Oakwood Plaza on Thursday.
It’s strange to think that might be the most action Heat fans see from Haslem this week.
The Miami-born-and-raised forward, who epitomizes the work ethic, defense and toughness for which the Heat franchise is known once you get past the superstar sheen, didn’t play Tuesday in Indiana. Haslem might play Saturday night at home against Cleveland. If he does, there’s no guarantee his minutes will edge into double digits. In his 12 appearances this season, Haslem has played less than 10 minutes six times.
“Going from starting [59 of 79 games played in 2012-13] to not playing at all is two extremes,” Haslem said. “I continue to support my teammates. I work hard every day and wait for my opportunity to come back around again.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said that will happen.
“He’ll find his way back in there,” Spoelstra said. “We have a deep team. Everybody’s had to sacrifice. Everybody’s had to take on a different role than they would typically like to be a part of this team. And virtually everybody has been in a similar situation as U.D. right now. He understands what this team is built for. Our versatility is a big strength. He also knows he has to be ready because his number will be called upon.”
Round One of the season-long fight with Indiana to rule the Eastern Conference all but begged for a Haslem to be a guest star Tuesday. A game of bumps and boards with a rough, rowdy bunch bringing attitude … that doesn’t just summon Haslem, it subpoenas him. Especially with Michael Beasley, a forward who serves a different role but does take up a rotation spot, down with a strained hamstring.
Haslem remained on the bench all night.
“That’s the type of game and competition I want to be a part of,” Haslem said. “I was hoping to [play]. I thought I would. That’s neither here nor there. It’s a long season. A lot of basketball left.”
Haslem’s minutes have been redistributed to other forwards so far this season, all of whom offer more offense but not the same kind of defense.
Rashard Lewis, 6-10, played only 55 games and 14.4 minutes per game when he did play last season. He already has played 21 of 22 this season and getting 18.6 minutes per game. Once the Heat started using Beasley off the bench, it did so for 14.1 minutes per game. He will miss Saturday’s game with the hamstring injury he thinks he sustained while lifting weights during the road trip. Beasley said he can do everything except run.
Haslem’s starting spot now gets filled by 6-8 Shane Battier, a crafty technician as a defender. As Spoelstra said, nearly everyone has been in Haslem’s seat.
“Every circumstance is different. It’s easier to take a diminished role when your team is winning,” Battier said, laughing, when asked in general about making the adjustment to drastically reduced playing time. “That’s the truth. When you’re on a losing team and you’re asked to take a lesser role, that’s when you have some soul searching to do.
“It’s part of the game. We all go through it. It’s not an ‘if’ question. It’s a ‘when’ question. For all of us. Even the great ones. You’ll be asked to take a lesser role.”