It’s been a rough start to the season for the Miami Heat. But that hasn’t stopped team captain Udonis Haslem from trying to bring the team closer together off the court.
Sunday, Haslem paid for a suite at the Dolphins game and invited all of his teammates to come along. Nearly all of them did, Haslem said, except guard Dion Waiters, who ‘got a free pass’ because he was celebrating his 25th birthday.
“You've always got to check the schedule, but it was one of the fews times we would have an opportunity to do something like that even coming off a back-to-back in Chicago,” Haslem said. “You have to build relationships off the basketball court so those things continue to translate into wins on the basketball court the closer you get.”
“I do it with my family and my friends all the time. I thought it would be a good opportunity for all of us to get together, go out and enjoy the Dolphin game, get these guys on the Dolphin bandwagon as well and just continue to build this relationship as we go through this process.”
It turned out to be the first time a couple of Haslem’s teammates had ever been to an NFL game. Forward Derrick Williams grew up in Los Angeles without an NFL team and point guard Goran Dragic grew up in Europe watching and playing the other kind of futbol.
“I prefer soccer more,” Dragic said. “But this is my ninth year in the the states. So I’ve started liking it. I like watching football. It’s an interesting game. Right now I understand the rules much better than when I came to the states. So, it’s fun.
“It was a really sloppy game, a lot of turnovers and back and forth. But I'm happy the Dolphins won.”
Haslem said he made sure to visit with Dragic often during the game to make sure he understood what was going on.
“I was letting him know there were going to be no balls bouncing off their heads,” Haslem said with a chuckle. “Every time somebody scored a touchdown I looked at him and said ‘American football baby!’ We just laughed and joked about it.
“I was happy to get the guys together. I just remembered back thinking to the championship run and all how close we were off the court and just how we were willing to take care of each other, have each other's back and play for each other on the court because of the relationships we had off the court.”
Earlier this month when the team was in Portland, coach Erik Spoelstra paid for the entire team to eat at his restaurant 23Hoyt, which he co-owns.
Haslem said Sunday’s Dolphins game was “probably the second or third time” since the regular season began the entire team has been able to get together for an off-the-court activity.
“I made it clear to everybody that once I paid my money for the tickets it was mandatory,” Haslem said. “For sure it was not cheap.”
Center Hassan Whiteside, who grew up in North Carolina and is a huge Carolina Panthers fan, said he enjoyed the experience and thanked Haslem.
“He's a great teammate,” he said. “I hadn’t been to a Dolphins game. It’s [been] a tough season for my Panthers. So, right now everybody is killing me. We’re going to get it right.
“But it's good [the Dolphins] won. It’s good for the city of Miami.”