Udonis Haslem has been through thousands of practices and shootarounds throughout his 15-year NBA career with the Miami Heat.
So asking him Friday morning to recall how many practices he went through in the final season of the Big 3 era in 2014 – and if it was perhaps too much for an aging and tired team to handle as Ray Allen suggested in an interview with Sports Illustrated Thursday – was basically futile.
“I didn’t really see it that way, but Ray’s entitled to his opinion,” said Haslem, the only remaining member of the last Heat team to reach the Finals in 2014. “You guys know me if I had something to say I would have said something by now.
“To be honest with you, bro, asking me how many practices and shootarounds I’ve been through and asking me to remember if it was shorter a few years ago, I can’t give you [an] answer,” he continued. “That [expletive] don’t matter to me, man. I don’t care about that kind of stuff, man. The only thing that matters to me is right now. That’s in the past.
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“That was a great four years man. I learned a lot. I had a lot of success. I wish as a group we would have really embraced that moment more because it was a beautiful moment. A lot of teams don’t have that kind of success and toward the end we forgot to enjoy it. It had nothing to do with all that stuff. We just forgot to enjoy the ride.”
Haslem’s reaction Friday echoed that of coach Erik Spoelstra, who took the high road after hearing the criticism Allen threw the Heat’s way for allegedly mismanaging players’ bodies.
A Heat spokesman said the Heat actually worked with Allen and other veteran players specifically throughout that season to make sure they had to make fewer appearances and that after January the number of shootarounds and practices between games were limited in an effort to help players get more rest.
Spoelstra said he’s always tried to take into account the health and wear and tear on the bodies of his players from season to season and adjusts when necessary.
“I don’t know if anybody has a perfect formula. So we constantly tried to improve it and work on the schedule,” he said Friday. “Who knows looking back on it whether it was the right call or not. We didn’t end up winning a championship, but it was a terrific team. What an incredible run. Nothing should be taken away from that.”
Did Allen’s words – and what Dwyane Wade said a week prior about the final season of the Big 3 being like a “bad marriage” – hurt Spoelstra’s feelings?
“It’s so long ago. I look at that team with so much respect and joy,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a chapter out of all of our lives that will always be there. Nobody can ever take it away from us. It is not easy to do what that team did and I think eventually everybody will be able to look back on that in such high regard and celebrate really what we were able to accomplish together.
“But I mentioned it [Thursday], when I go down Championship Alley and I look at the photos, it brings me back to a place that I have so many fond memories. I don’t stay there, though. I don’t stay in that place. I’m fully invested in this group. It is a different Heat chapter right now and I love this team. I love the challenge that we have with this group. I’m able to occasionally bring stories from that run that may be applicable to this group – a young team with big aspirations. But that’s about it.”
Spoelstra said he feels like his relationship with the players on the last team he coached to the Finals remains in good standing. He still speaks to many of them.
“Especially Dwyane and UD because they were here the years after,” Spoelstra said. “But yeah, when you see everybody that is still playing, there’s not many of them, but when you see them, it’s that bond and that history that you have together that nobody will be able to take away.”
Does Spoelstra have any regrets about the way he coached the Heat’s last Finals team?
“C’mon. You know me,” he said. “Whatever anybody can say, I’ve gone through. My entire process is I normally beat myself up and would of, could of, should of done a million things differently. I hope that’s what helps me as a coach. I’ve changed and evolved quite a bit since that championship run with that group.
“A lot of those years helped me evolve, but a lot of what I’ve experienced as a coach in the last three years has really helped me evolve. We lost three straight Hall of Famers in three consecutive years and we take great pride that we’re able to evolve and keep on moving forward with a new group. And I hope, how many years has it been? Four years. So four or five years from now, I hope I’m a vastly improved coach again. If I’m not, then I’ll be in trouble.”