Barry Jackson

You want to know Udonis Haslem's true value? Let Miami Heat's Goran Dragic explain it

Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem looks on before the start of a February game against Houston. Haslem has said he's undecided whether he will continue his playing career next season.
Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem looks on before the start of a February game against Houston. Haslem has said he's undecided whether he will continue his playing career next season. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Some Miami Heat notes on a Friday:

For those who ask why the Heat uses a roster spot on Udonis Haslem, who played just 72 minutes in 14 games this season, Goran Dragic provided a revealing answer that explains his true value:

“It's really tough to explain to people outside what he means to this team,” Dragic said several days after the season ended. “Everybody is looking, ‘OK, he's not playing’ but they don't know how much he brings to this team, especially with his experience and leadership.

A lot of guys in this locker room need leadership like UD, especially Hassan [Whiteside]. I think UD can provide that. He's there where usually some guys would not be, in the toughest moments, when you need something, he's there. That's why everybody loves him.

“I played with a lot of veteran guys who had successful careers — like UD, Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Amare Stoudemire — [and Haslem] is number one in my books as a player and a leader and a friend.

“He gives to others. He's not about him any more. He's there to give his knowledge, his hand, his body, everything to make it easier for those young players. I really have a privilege to be there [with him]. Hopefully, one day I can be like him.”

Whether Haslem wants to return — or whether the Heat will again pay Haslem the $2.3 million to fill a roster spot — remain to be seen. But Dragic’s comment should tell you why he has value in this role.

What about the idea of Haslem becoming an assistant coach? He has said that doesn’t interest him.

Miami Heat's Udonis Haslem talks to the media about his possible retirement after this season's end and about Dwayne Wade.

But he said when he retires, he would have interest in a Heat front office job. Former Heat players Alonzo Mourning, Shane Battier and Keith Askins all have jobs within the organization.

According to Bleacher Report's Ken Berger, the San Antonio Spurs so far have rebuffed trade inquiries about forward Kawhi Leonard, who is expected to be pursued by the Heat and other teams this summer.

From Berger's piece: Another Western Conference executive said teams are lining up to try to do something'in the event the Spurs decide to trade Leonard this summer. Through back channels, those teams have gotten the brush-off from the Spurs. "The Spurs want to try to make things work right now and aren't interested," the exec said.

Leonard, who can become a free agent in 2019, and the Spurs have had issues this year over treatment of a quad injury that sidelined him for much of the season.

One NBA agent told Berger that Leonard could make $70 million more by signing the "super-max" extension with San Antonio this summer rather than leaving as a free agent in 2019.

After spending last summer leading Slovenia to the European basketball championship, Dragic is planning a more restful summer. Dragic is now retired from international basketball but wouldn’t rule out playing in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo if asked.

He said it was “difficult” to decide not to play for Slovenia this summer but “it would have been even more difficult” if Slovenia hadn’t won the European championship.

“The people from the federation have been here in Miami; they tried to persuade me,” Dragic said. ‘We had a good meeting. I said my body at that time, I need to think about myself and my career. I gave to my country everything I had. Now it's time to end.”

On the 2020 Olympics, Dragic said: “If they want me, if they need me, probably I would change my mind.”

Here's a link to order this season's Heat's yearbook: https://twitter.com/GamedayHQ/status/987422930194829318

​ Former Heat forward Grant Long, who has done TV analyst work for the Oklahoma City Thunder, was blunt about Hassan Whiteside in a Thursday chat with WQAM's Joe Rose.​

"I'm going to completely agree with Pat Riley," Long said. "I just think he maybe wasn't as prepared as he needed to be. I think he's a gifted young man, but he is going to have to commit himself to playing at a level of basketball that is going to lead that team. He's a big guy. He can play on the perimeter a little bit. He can defend on the perimeter, but what he does, he's got to find a way to do that every game. Especially in the playoffs.

"You can't have days off. You can't have games off and some of those games he disappeared in. I understand some of the matchups weren't favorable. In today's NBA, the offseason is here for you to improve yourself and this is one of those offseasons for Hassan Whiteside that he is going to have to make some significant improvements to keep himself on the floor if he's going to be an asset to this team. And I think that's what he has to go into the offseason looking at. How do I get better? Sit down with coach Spo. Sit down with Pat Riley. Ask the questions. What do I have to do to improve and stay on the floor? And then go out and try to do those things.

"I've always been from the school of thought that at the NBA level, you should never have to prod a guy to play.... And I think too many times throughout the season, coach Spo [Erik Spoelstra] had to try to find some creative ways to get this guy to play. You shouldn't have to do that. ... That position is not necessarily obsolete, but it's not as valuable as a 4 or 5 who can stretch the floor, run the floor, defend multiple positions. That's where Hassan Whiteside is. If anything keeps him off the trade market it would be that rather than his talent."

​ Spoelstra told New York media that the Knicks didn’t talk to him about new Knicks coach and former Heat assistant David Fizdale during their coach search. Spoelstra said they didn’t need to because they talked to Heat president Pat Riley.

"You talk to the Godfather and he gives the go-ahead, you don't need to talk to anybody else," Spoelstra said. "Shut down all the other interviews."

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