Miami Heat

Udonis Haslem chooses to return to the Miami Heat for 17th NBA season. Here’s why

Dwyane Wade is set on retirement, but Udonis Haslem is set on playing another NBA season.

After considering retirement this offseason, Haslem announced Tuesday on Instagram that he has decided to return to the Heat for a 17th NBA season.

“To be continued Heat Nation!!!” Haslem wrote on Instagram to accompany a photo of his locker at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The 39-year-old forward will sign a one-year, $2.6 million veteran minimum contract with the Heat, according to a league source.

“We are proud to welcome our captain back for a 17th season,” Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement. “UD is the heart and soul of Miami and we are proud to have him help lead this team once again.”

With the addition of Haslem, the Heat’s roster is up to 14 players under standard NBA contracts: Jimmy Butler (a 2019-20 salary of $32.7 million); Goran Dragic ($19.2 million); James Johnson ($15.3 million); Kelly Olynyk ($13.1 million); Justise Winslow ($13 million); Dion Waiters ($12.1 million); Meyers Leonard ($11.3 million); Tyler Herro ($3.6 million); Bam Adebayo ($3.5 million); Udonis Haslem ($2.6 million), Derrick Jones Jr. ($1.6 million); Duncan Robinson ($1.4 million), Kendrick Nunn ($1.4 million) and KZ Okpala ($898,000).

Although Haslem’s 2019-20 salary is $2.6 million, he counts about $1.6 million against the hard cap the Heat is operating under this season after acquiring Jimmy Butler through a sign-and-trade deal with Philadelphia last month.

With the addition of Haslem, Miami stands only about $1 million below the $138.9 million hard cap. The Heat appears to be done adding players to standard contracts barring a trade, especially since it is likely to open the season with a 13- or 14-player roster because of its situation against the hard cap that it can’t exceed at any point this season.

Haslem, a Miami native who attended Miami High, has spent each of his 16 NBA seasons with the Heat and currently holds the longest streak by any active player with only one team in the league.

Undrafted out of Florida in 2002, he’s played a role on each of the franchise’s three championship teams and is the Heat’s all-time leading rebounder with 5,738 rebounds. Haslem is the only undrafted player in NBA history to lead a franchise in total rebounds and has served as a Heat captain in each of the past 12 seasons, the longest tenure in team history.

As a team captain, Haslem has been used in more of a leadership role in recent years. He’s logged just 277 minutes of playing time in 40 regular-season games since the start of the 2016-17 season.

Haslem has appeared in 854 career regular season games (499 starts), averaging 7.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 25.2 minutes while shooting 49 percent from the field and 75.5 percent from the foul line.

Along with holding the title of the Heat’s all-time leading rebounder, he’s also the team’s all-time leader in offensive and defensive rebounds and also ranks among Miami’s all-time leaders in games played (second), starts (second), minutes (second), double-doubles (fourth) and field goals made (fifth).

In June, Haslem delivered a message through Instagram for those questioning whether the Heat should again use one of its final roster spots on a veteran who has logged limited playing time in recent seasons.

“What I’ve grown to realize in my life is that my obsession with success, my drive to overcome obstacles and my overall work ethics is way higher than most. And I’m OK with that,” Haslem wrote in June as part of a long Instagram post accompanied by a photo of him in a gym. “It makes sense why most think I should retire at 39. Cause most would. Cause most are average minded. Most don’t look like this at 39! Hell they ain’t look like this at 19. Lol. So y’all keep worrying about the last spot on the roster while I sit back and stay ready so I don’t gotta get ready. I’m not saying I’m playing next year but if u with me then u will support whatever I do!! Not tell me what to do!!”

Haslem said at the end of last season that his decision would be about his family and how comfortable he feels with a Heat locker room that doesn’t including Wade or himself. The Heat has had either Wade or Haslem, or both, on its roster since the 2003-04 season.

“There is a responsibility to guys like myself and Dwyane, just like there was a responsibility to Brian Grant, there was a responsibility to Eddie Jones, there was responsibility to Alonzo [Mourning] to make sure that when they walked away, the culture and the Miami Heat way and the things that we preach and the things that we truly honestly believe in has the next caretaker of it,” Haslem said in April.

“We have guys that are making their way toward that position. But for me, it would bother me to walk away knowing it hasn’t been 100 percent solidified who that guy would be and how it would be taken care of moving forward. That’s why a lot of the things that people ask me, I don’t have answers for because it’s not all about me.”

Haslem also said in April that his family wants him to receive the type of appreciation Wade got in his final season.

“Me and my wife have talked about, me and my family have talked about it,” Haslem said. “Although nothing on the scale of what Dwyane has done for his ‘One Last Dance,’ a lot of people feel like I should take the time to be celebrated at some point. Even though personally as the person I am, I’m kind of like whatever.

“But I feel like the Haslem family as a whole deserves the opportunity to celebrate when my career does come to an end. So that has some effect on the decision that we make, and my wife is adamant about me letting people celebrate me at some point.”

Now, Miami and the Heat organization will have their chance to celebrate Haslem’s career.

NBA teams are allowed to carry a maximum of 20 players up until the start of the regular season, when the limit is cut to 15. The current Heat roster includes 17 players, with Kyle Alexander, Jeremiah Martin and Chris Silva signed to Exhibit 9 and 10 contracts along with the 14 players under standard NBA deals. The Heat still has not filled either of its two two-way contract spots.

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.
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