Barry Jackson

The Miami Heat’s Udonis Haslem reveals this surprising change of heart

Heat forward Udonis Haslem, who initially said he was leaning toward retiring after this season, has had a change of heart.

“I am leaning towards doing one more season,” Haslem told the Miami Herald on Thursday evening. “But it’s not 100 percent. For me, physically and mentally I’m still 100 percent engaged to help these guys get where they need to go. It’s just about the time. Is it time to do something different?”

Haslem said he will discuss his future with Heat CEO Nick Arison after the season before the sides come to a decision. If Haslem wants to play, the Heat would need to sign off on having Haslem play another season at the $2.4 million minimum.

Though there were reports elsewhere since September that Haslem had decided to retire, he said Thursday: “I never said I had decided to retire. I said I had nothing else to prove in this game. Now it’s more so being with these guys, getting my competitive, winning nature and hunger filled by investing in others, and that’s not easy at times. As long as I can have an impact on these guys, I’m comfortable being there.”

Haslem, 38, has played only 15 minutes all season after playing 260, 130 and 72 the past three years.

“It’s really tough to explain to people outside what he means to this team,” Goran Dragic said last spring. “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.”

Though Haslem and Dwyane Wade began their Heat careers at the same time (2003-04), Haslem said they don’t necessarily need to end their Heat careers the same year. Wade is retiring after the season.

“I’m leaning toward [playing another season] because as I watch Dwyane go, it’s more and more clear to me that even though we came in together and want to finish together, our careers have taken different paths,” Haslem said. “That doesn’t mean we’re separated. But our careers have gone different ways. We started together and are going to finish here together, but it doesn’t mean we have to finish at the same time. That’s something that becomes more and more clear as you watch these paths go the way they’re going.”

WHITESIDE CONUDRUM

There have been several occasions this season where the Heat failed to secure a defensive rebound in the closing minutes of the game with Hassan Whiteside on the bench. That happened again in Thursday’s loss to Philadelphia, when 76ers 7-3 center Boban Marjanovic — with the Heat leading by one — corralled an offensive rebound with 1:36 remaining, was fouled and hit two free throws to put the 76ers ahead for good.

Whiteside was asked if it frustrates him to be on the bench late when an opposing team gets a key rebound.

“It’s tough,” he said. “I consider myself one of the best rebounders in the NBA. That’s what I think I am. It’s all up to coach.”

Whiteside is first in the league in rebounds per 48 minutes.

Asked if he considered reinserting Whiteside late in the game, Spoelstra said: “We’ve had enough of these painful ones and these possession games that we just have to get the job done. We’re one of the better rebounding teams in the league. In these moments of truth is where it has to get better.”

Derrick Jones Jr. was pleased with his nine-point, two-rebound effort in his first game back after missing eight with a knee injury.

“I’m a hooper,” he said. “It’s like second nature to me. I play the game like it’s supposed to be played. I can’t go in there and have rust in my situation.”

Dion Waiters made clear that anything short of postseason would be a disappointment.

“No more talking,” he said. “We want to send 3 [Wade] off the right way. I want to taste the playoffs.”

The Heat (26-31) will enter Saturday’s key game against Detroit either tied with the Pistons (who play at Atlanta on Friday) for the No. 8 spot or one game back (if Detroit beats Atlanta). Miami is just 11-16 at home.

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