Heat forward Udonis Haslem hasn’t played in 27 games in a row, dating to early February, and has logged just 129 minutes in 16 appearances all season.
But as usual, he’s still finding a way to contribute.
Forward James Johnson, unsolicited, on Wednesday cited Haslem’s inspirational words in the wake of the Heat’s losses to the Knicks and Nuggets.
“That was all Udonis,” Johnson said of the Heat playing with confidence in Wednesday’s 112-99 win against Charlotte. “His speech, his words. He doesn't talk a lot. When he does, you respect, you listen, you take it in.”
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So what did Haslem say?
“I told them let's not forget where we came from. Two months ago, people were kicking dirt on us. Now we put ourselves in an opportunity where we have a chance to make the playoffs.
“I always say, ‘We deserve it. We deserve to be here.’
“I finish it with: ‘Why not us? Why can't we be in the playoffs? We can't we get a seventh seed or a sixth seed? Why can't we get to the second round? We deserve it just as much as anybody else.’
“I want these guys to believe that... Last game my focus was we've come too far on the last lap to collapse."
Tyler Johnson said the message resonated: “He's been in these situations. He understands what it takes to get into the playoffs and what it takes to make a run. He tells us all the time back on Jan. 15, when they were kicking dirt on us, when they didn't expect us to be in the position we're in.
“What would be the point of fighting so hard to put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs and then settle for anything less than what got us here in the first place?”
Said Wayne Ellington, of Haslem: “When we need someone to get on us, he’s always there. You can anticipate it. He talks with an assertive voice. Firm but not scolding us.”
• Charlotte coach Steve Clifford couldn’t stop raving about Hassan Whiteside after Wednesday’s 13-point, 20-rebound game, which broke Rony Seikaly’s franchise record for double-doubles in a season (Whiteside has 54).
"Listen, the other guys scored, but he was the difference in the game," Clifford said. "Him, Rudy Gobert, DeAndre Jordan, those guys are difference makers because they’re not only big, they’re mobile and he has a great quality, an ability to change shots."
For my post today with some newsy stuff on Goran Dragic and James Johnson, please click here.