“It could be if teammates make this a final season to remember.” Haslem said.
Udonis Haslem has served as a Heat captain in each of the past 12 seasons, the longest tenure in team history.
But the 39-year-old forward has had help over the years, most recently teaming up with Goran Dragic and James Johnson to serve as the Heat’s tri-captains in each of the previous two seasons. Now that Haslem has decided to return to the Heat for a 17th NBA season on a one-year, $2.6 million veteran minimum contract, he welcomes new help following the addition of four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler.
Haslem leads in the locker room and from the bench, as his playing time has been limited in recent seasons. Butler can lead the Heat in different ways, as a player who’s expected to log heavy minutes in a featured role.
“Another leader,” Haslem said Wednesday of what Butler brings to the Heat. “Another amazing, amazing tremendous competitor. Another guy with some experience. Another guy who can drive these guys, but not just off the court or in practice like I do. Somebody that actually drives these guys in the game, push these guys. Play at an intense level in the game and do some of the things I try to do from the bench. But it’s always different when you have a guy in the game that’s driving guys like that.
“I feel like we have that in Justise [Winslow], as well. I feel like we’re getting that out of Bam [Adebayo], as he’s growing and getting more comfortable. We have guys like that, but Jimmy is the most comfortable and the guy that’s been doing that long enough.”
Butler, who turns 30 in September, is known for his competitiveness, which has rubbed some of his teammates the wrong way in the past. But the Heat is hoping Butler can help fix internal issues that have surfaced in recent seasons.
“It’s not always the things that are in practice. Sometimes it’s just tightening the screws on other things,” said Haslem, who is a Miami native and has spent each of his 16 NBA seasons with the Heat.
“I feel like that as a captain, that is my job to be more involved in that, that is my job to take initiative and maybe tighten screws on certain things at times. Could I have probably done a better job at times? Yes. For me, like I said, I have to give all I can give in order for these guys to be the best they can be. That’s part of the things that I intend to do and part of the reason why I came back.”
Haslem takes his title of team captain seriously.
Aside from the three NBA championships Haslem has won during his career, it’s his reputation as the Heat’s captain that he’s most proud of. Not the fact that he currently holds the longest streak by any active player with only one team in the league or that he’s the only undrafted player in NBA history to lead a franchise in total rebounds.
“Being a captain has probably gotten me more respect in the game of basketball and definitely in this organization than my records,” Haslem said. “Being a captain has to do with how you carry yourself. Being a captain has to do with how you compete every day. Being a captain has to do with when the cameras are off, when people are not watching.
“Being a captain has to do with so many other ways that you can influence a team, influence a player, influence an organization. They keep choosing me to be that guy, so it’s definitely an honor.”
▪ Heat big man Kelly Olynyk experienced quite the scare in the third quarter of Canada’s win over Nigeria on Wednesday in a FIBA exhibition game. He was forced to leave the contest after falling and slipping to the court.
But it was only a scare, with the diagnosis coming back Thursday as a bruised knee following an X-ray that was negative.
Olynyk, who is a member of Canada’s national team preparing for the FIBA World Cup, will take a week off before continuing his preparation for next month’s tournament held in China.
▪ The NBA announced it will release the complete 2019-20 schedule Monday at 3 p.m.