Longtime Miami Heat captain Udonis Haslem, who turned 38 last week, said Thursday he still hasn’t decided if he will come back this season for a 16th season with the only franchise he’s ever played for.
Retirement, though, isn’t the issue. It’s playing time. Haslem wants more of it.
“Every time I talk to the guys they want me to come back,” Haslem said after spending some time with youngsters at the Heat’s basketball camp at South Broward High.
“But I don’t know, man. I’m just trying to have fun. I’ve got a lot of energy. It ain’t always getting exerted on the court. So I’ve got to figure out somewhere to put it. I’ve got game left in me. I might just go play in China or Europe or something. I’ve got some game left. I ain’t really trying to waste it too much more. So, we’ll figure it out.”
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Haslem, the Heat’s career leader in rebounds, played in only 14 games last season and a total of 72 minutes. He played in 16 games in 2016-17 and only 37 games the season prior to that.
“I know they want me to come back, but there’s also the selfless part of me that gives, gives, gives and a part of me that says I’ve got to start thinking about myself sometimes,” Haslem said. “That’s where I’m at. That’s the dilemma for me. I’ve got to start thinking about myself. I love being around the guys. I enjoy giving life to the guys. I enjoy working out with the guys, and I enjoy seeing the things we do off the court manifest on the court and having success. But you know at the end of the day I still go home a little bit frustrated because I can still play. Part of that is deciding whether I want to deal with that.”
Would he really consider playing overseas just to get on the court and be more than just a locker room leader?
“Hell yeah. I can play,” Haslem said. “I ain’t joking. Listen man I don’t just work out to work out. I’ve got plenty of other things I can be doing besides going to the gym and working out every day and having a strict diet and not playing at all. It’s a lot of things I can be doing besides that. I might just go play in China. I don’t know. I want to play.”
Is this something Haslem has been wrestling with for a while?
“At the end of the day man I watch guys that contribute on championship teams like David West,” Haslem said. “I watch these guys my age and they’re contributing on championship-caliber teams and I feel like I can do the same thing. I’ve got to see what I’m going to next year.
“Am I a 30-minute a guy anymore? No. But I can contribute. That’s the only thing I want to do and if it’s not here I don’t know where it’s going to be. I just want to help somebody win some basketball games.”
Haslem said he and close friend Dwyane Wade talk daily. Wade, 36, has yet to decide if he’s coming back for a 16th season too.
“We piggyback off each other, lean off each other a lot,” Haslem said. “A lot of the conversations we’re having — hopefully we can make the decision together. That doesn’t always work out. But we always hope we do.”
Would the return of LeBron James this summer to the Heat play a factor in keeping Haslem and Wade around? Of course.
Haslem said he spent time with James and Wade shortly before the start of the NBA Finals.
“I spent some time with Bron,” Haslem said. “He was in Miami. Me, him and Dwyane got together and we spent some time together, just chopped it up. [A return to Miami] wasn’t part of the conversation. Obviously he was getting ready for the NBA Finals. But there are great pieces here. We all know the city loves him. We all know what he’s capable of doing, the organization. I would love to have him.
“But as a friend I support LeBron in any decision he makes. So we’ll see. Am I going to be a part of the recruiting process? Hell yeah. If we talk I’m going to throw it out there. But you just never know.”
Is LeBron’s potential return to Miami part of the conversation Haslem has with Wade?
“Not at all,” he said. “Our conversation is way deeper than where LeBron goes next year. We’re not afraid to have uncomfortable conversations. We’re focusing on a lot of business things, but also in the back of our minds knowing we have decisions to make.”