Udonis Haslem needs two rebounds to become the Heat’s all-time leader in the category. Pretty good for a guy who’s not even 6-8.
Haslem is listed at 6-8 officially, but Monday at practice he broke one of the cardinal rules of the game by offering up his actual measurements.
“Eh, 6-7 … and a half,” Haslem said, reluctantly. “Three-quarters, maybe, with my shoes on.”
Haslem could pass Alonzo Mourning for the Heat’s rebounding record (4,807) on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks at AmericanAirlines Arena. By any measure, it will be an accomplishment on an historic scale. When Haslem moves ahead of Mourning in the record books, he will become the only undrafted free agent since the common NBA Draft began in 1966 to hold a franchise record in rebounding.
“The memories are what I will always have — until I get old or get Alzheimer’s or something — that I was the rebounding champion,” Haslem said.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two undrafted players since 1966 have more career rebounds than Haslem: Ben Wallace (10,482) and Brad Miller (6,199).
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra subbed Haslem out of the game Saturday in Phoenix, giving him the chance to break the record at home. Born and raised in Miami, Haslem wouldn’t want it any other way.
“In front of my family, in front of my friends, in front of so many people that I love and care about,” Haslem said. “In front of my home fans that have been there for me and supported me for so long, it’s going to be a great accomplishment.”
Haslem, in his 10th season with the Heat, played a year in France after going undrafted in 2002 out of Florida. He was a full-time starter from 2004 to 2009 but primarily has come off the bench during the past four seasons. That he has started only 10 games since 2009 makes his rebounding numbers that much more impressive.
Since coming off the bench, Haslem’s effectiveness as a rebounder has gone up compared to his years as a starter. His total-rebound percentage, a measurement defined by Basketball-Reference.com as “an estimate of the percentage of available rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor,” never has been below 16.9 since 2009. As a starter, his total-rebound percentage was never above 15.8.
For perspective, Dwight Howard’s total-rebound percentage for his career is 20.9. LeBron James, who plays heavy minutes, has a career total-rebound percentage of 10.6. In other words, Haslem, despite two significant injuries during his career, is still one of the best rebounders in the league.
“Two years of season-ending injuries,” Haslem said. “Let’s knock on wood that I don’t get hurt again, but I could have broken the record a while ago.”
Chris Bosh, the Toronto Raptors’ all-time leading rebounder (4,776), remembers well the nights he had to battle Haslem under the glass.
“You look at him and, yeah, he is a bit shorter than most post guys, but he’s a strong guy and he makes up for it in strength and experience,” Bosh said. “Anytime you played against him you knew it was going to be a battle. He was going to make you work, and he’s going to play some pretty good defense.”
For Haslem, rebounding never has been about height.
“It’s pride. It’s just mental toughness,” Haslem said. “The first thing Coach [Pat Riley] told me when I walked in here was that everyone in this league can score, and he told me the way I was going to make my niche to make this team was to hit the boards and rebound.”
Rest and recovery
Three days between games has come as a welcomed respite for the Heat, which ended its six-game road trip Saturday with three of its starters either injured, sore or sick. Dwyane Wade (sprained left foot) missed three games during the road trip. Mario Chalmers sustained a triceps injury. James played the final game of the trip with the flu.
“We’re going to take advantage of this opportunity to get better in our practices, get better in our games but also take advantage of the days we don’t have games and get back healthy,” James said. “We have a lot of guys that are banged up right now, so the schedule is working out for us finally.”