The Heat, Udo­nis Haslem and the value of a 15th man

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Nba Insider - Ira Win­der­man

MI­AMI — This is about the mea­sure of a man. It also is about the value of a

15th man. It’s about Udo­nis Haslem. It’s also about sep­a­rat­ing the emo­tion from the busi­ness/ bas­ket­ball side of the equa­tion.

With Haslem and the Heat work­ing to­ward an agree­ment for a re­turn for a

16th NBA sea­son, the dis­cus­sion has cen­tered more on the uti­liza­tion of a ros­ter spot on a player who doesn’t play than on the NBA min­i­mum salary Haslem would col­lect, which es­sen­tially would carry the same hit against the salary cap and lux­ury tax as any other min­i­mum­scale player.

Con­sid­er­ing that Haslem fin­ished third in last sea­son’s league-wide vot­ing for the NBA’s 2017-18 Twyman-Stokes Team­mate Award, the re­spect for the lead­er­ship of the Heat tri-cap­tain is un­de­ni­able.

The re­al­ity, though, is that Ja­mal Craw­ford, the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves guard who won the award, played 1,653 min­utes last sea­son. Run­ner-up Manu Gi­no­bili, the San An­to­nio Spurs guard, played 1,299.

Haslem? Just 72 min­utes in 2017-18. And just 130 the sea­son be­fore.

That’s less than the equiv­a­lent of five reg­u­la­tion-length games over two sea­sons — a span of 164 games.

Which brings us to the value of the fi­nal spot on a

15-player NBA ros­ter and whether lead­er­ship, char­ac­ter, pro­fes­sion­al­ism can out­weigh depth, devel­op­ment, flex­i­bil­ity.

For the Heat, the place to start might be to look within, about how the team has uti­lized that fi­nal ros­ter spot over the last decade.

While the list is some­what sub­jec­tive, based on play­ing time and con­tri­bu­tions, for the Heat, go­ing Udo­nis Haslem, who played 72 min­utes min­utes last sea­son, is work­ing to­ward an agree­ment with the Mi­ami Heat to re­turn for a 16th NBA sea­son.

back­wards over the past 10 sea­sons, it goes some­thing like this: Haslem (2018), Haslem (2017), Bri­ante We­ber (2016), Zo­ran Dragic (2015), Greg Oden (2014), Juwan Howard (2012), Eddy Curry (2012), Ja­maal Ma­gloire (2011), Yak­ouba Di­awara (2010), Mar­cus Banks (2009).

Es­sen­tially, the split mostly is be­tween end-of­bench vet­eran lead­er­ship and de­vel­op­men­tal/ex­per­i­men­tal projects.

At times, the reach for vet­eran sta­bil­ity over de­vel­op­men­tal prom­ise can go south, an ex­am­ple of that with the Heat com­ing dur­ing the fi­nal ros­ter cuts in 2010, when the choice was made to go with Ed­die House over Pa­trick Bev­er­ley.

The dif­fer­ence th­ese days is that teams also are af­forded a pair of two-way con­tracts that do not count against the 15-player reg­u­lar-sea­son limit. That al­lowed the Heat, while re­tain­ing Haslem, to de­velop Der­rick Wal­ton Jr. and Der­rick Jones Jr. last sea­son and al­lows the same with cur­rent two-way play­ers Dun­can Robin­son and Yante Maten (or pos­si­ble even­tual two-way re­place­ments) for the com­ing sea­son.

Taken fur­ther, con­sider the 15th men for last sea­son’s

NBA fi­nal­ists. For the Cava­liers, the choice was vet­eran big man Ken­drick Perkins, who, like Haslem, seem­ingly was in place to do ev­ery­thing but play. By con­trast, the Warriors opted for the need for Quinn Cook amid the in­jury that side­lined Stephen Curry at the start of the play­offs, even though it cost them the vet­eran shoot­ing of ailing for­ward Omri Casspi.

But then also con­sider that nei­ther Perkins nor Cook were in uni­form for the con­clud­ing game of the

2018 NBA Fi­nals.

And that’s some­thing else that needs to be con­sid­ered when it comes to the Heat and Haslem and each side try­ing to do right by the other: Only 13 play­ers can be in uni­form per game.

Last sea­son, de­spite ap­pear­ing in only 14 games, Haslem was not listed as in­ac­tive a sin­gle time. The only time he was not in uni­form was when he was away for two games to pay re­spects to his late agent. Oth­er­wise, the Heat’s

2017-18 in­ac­tive list in­stead in­cluded play­ers such as Jones, Wal­ton, Jor­dan Mickey and Luke Bab­bitt, as well as those who missed time due to in­jury, ill­ness or rest.

Then con­sider th­ese 13

play­ers who al­most as­suredly would be called upon by coach Erik Spoel­stra for min­utes ahead of Haslem based on the prece­dents of the past two sea­sons: Has­san White­side, Kelly Olynyk, Bam Ade­bayo, James John­son, Jus­tise Winslow, Josh Richard­son, Jones, Dion Wait­ers, Go­ran Dragic, Tyler John­son, Wayne Elling­ton, Rodney McGruder and Dwyane Wade, should he de­cide to re­turn.

Over the past two sea­sons, Haslem has scored 39 points, grabbed 46 re­bounds and not once been asked by Spoel­stra to re­main out of uni­form. This sea­son, with a re­turn as well by Wade, that could prove to be a de­cid­edly dif­fer­ent chal­lenge.

There is no ques­tion that the player in the No. 40 jer­sey that one day will be lifted to the rafters at Amer­i­canAir­lines Arena has earned the right to dic­tate the terms of his Heat ca­reer, in­clud­ing the end game. There is lit­tle ev­i­dence, based on how the Heat have uti­lized that 15th ros­ter spot in re­cent years, that re­tain­ing a play­er­coach would prove lim­it­ing on game nights. But sea­son 16 could prove one that pro­duces a uni­form chal­lenge.

MICHAEL LAUGH­LIN/STAFF FILE PHOTO

As he again mulls his own Mi­ami Heat fu­ture, Dwyane Wade said last week he has no is­sues with play­ers seek­ing out new vis­tas in the NBA, be it Kawhi Leonard go­ing from the San An­to­nio Spurs to the Toronto Rap­tors or play­ers mov­ing on in free agency. “You don’t know what hap­pened with any­one in­side,” he said. “It’s just like any­thing else. Cer­tain guys in col­lege, they trans­fer to an­other school be­cause the op­por­tu­nity wasn’t there for them. I mean, I left my par­ents’ house at 16. There’s so many dif­fer­ent rea­sons that peo­ple want out of some­thing. They want a change. They want some­thing dif­fer­ent. That’s life. That doesn’t just have to be at the NBA level. Un­til you know ex­actly what that rea­son is, you can’t re­ally speak on it.”

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