Udonis Haslem is pretty sure he’s going to retire at the end of the season. How sure?
“My mind is pretty much set to move on to bigger and better things,” Haslem said in advance of Tuesday’s home game against the Nuggets. “But you never know, man. I love this game, and I love these guys. I’m still in good shape, and I still can afford to play the game. But 90 percent of my mind is made up about what’s the next step for me.
In the wake of recently telling Basketball Insiders that he will retire alongside close friend Dwyane Wade at the end of this season, the Heat’s power forward didn’t completely close the door on playing past his 16th NBA season. But it seems like a long shot at this point.
“There’s always a 10 percent chance if he comes back,” Haslem said with a grin pointing to Wade. “But then he’s got to give out jerseys again next year.”
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Coach Erik Spoelstra is just happy Haslem, 38, is still not 100 percent set on retirement yet.
“So, 10 percent? You’re saying there’s a chance,” Spoelstra said with a smile. “I’m going to let this marinate for a few months. Dwyane, there’s zero chance. I already broached that with him when I had lunch with him before the season. He told me, ‘Coach, don’t even try. It’s just this season.’
“I’ll let this marinate with UD for the season and then this summer I’ll have a chance to recruit again, and we’ll revisit it. My point to him now is you do not have to make a decision now. That’s the beauty of it.”
The Miami High grad, who started his NBA career in 2003 as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Florida, has spent each of his 16 NBA seasons with the Heat. He has been part of all three NBA championship teams in franchise history.
Haslem is the Heat’s all-time leader in rebounds (5,716). He is the first undrafted player in NBA history to be a team’s all-time leading rebounder.
With all of those accomplishments already on his resume, Haslem is ready to be more involved in the lives of his three sons.
Haslem’s oldest son, Kedonis, is an offensive lineman at the University of Toledo. He also has a 12-year-old, Josiah, who plays on a travel baseball team and a 7-year-old, Elijah, who is also active in different sports.
“I still love the game and I still love basketball, but it’s like as soon as the game is over, I’m checking my kids’ scores,” said Haslem, who has logged just 216 minutes of playing time in 33 regular-season games since the start of the 2016-17 season entering Tuesday. “My son is in college, I have a 12-year-old who is playing travel baseball, and it’s damn near like the MLB with these kids and travel baseball. The way they travel, the way they’re playing. I have a 7-year-old that has my mentality in every sport that he plays and I love it. Those are the things that I’m more focused on at this point right now.”
With Wade set on retirement at the end of the season and Haslem leaning that way, their hope is other Heat players can carry on “the culture” they will leave behind.
“Once it’s over for us, there has to be a leader, there has to be somebody that carries the culture and passes it on to the next generation,” Haslem said. “These guys are working right now. As much as me and Dwyane would like, right now there’s really nobody that’s fully grasped what we would like to pass on like guys passed it on to us. So we’re trying to fast track that. That is something for me that I take personal. When I walk away from this organization and the basketball side of things, I would like it to be in good hands, and I would like to see the culture and tradition continue to carry on the right way.”
Is there a player on the Heat’s roster that Haslem believes is fit for the job?
“I love what Justise [Winslow] is doing,” he said. “I love the edge that he plays with. I relate to that edge. I relate to that edge of one-thing-can-get-you-thrown-out type edge that you play with, that chip on your shoulder. I relate to that. If I can pick somebody, I would love for it to be Justise.”
Another thing Haslem and Wade would like to see before they retire is more court time together. They have played a total of eight minutes together this season.
“Hopefully we can run a couple more pick-and-rolls this year,” Wade said. “We had a couple in the Clippers game [on Dec. 8] and I enjoyed it. Hopefully we can have a couple more so I can go out that way. But I’m 100 percent [going to retire]. He’s 90 and rightfully so. He has his own decision to make. It’s not easy to make this decision. Each day you go back and forth on it, but not me. It’s over.”