All eyes will on the standings during the final day of the NBA’s regular season. The Miami Heat have already clinched their initial postseason path, though, set for a play-in tournament battle with the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.
The result of Sunday’s season finale against the Orlando Magic in South Beach is inconsequential for the Heat. But don’t take that reality as any indication the Heat will be treating the last game of Udonis Haslem’s historic career as an afterthought.
Before tipoff of Sunday’s matinee matchup, Erik Spoelstra admitted he’s finally begun considering about what life will be like for the Heat in future seasons without Haslem’s ineffable presence.
“Unfortunately, I have started to think about it the last couple weeks. I haven’t wanted to, and I’m usually really disciplined on just focusing on the task at hand. But of course you’re going to feel a certain way about it and have different emotions about it,” Spoelstra said of Haslem’s retirement, per Wes Goldberg of All U Can Heat. “It’s somebody that I care so deeply about as a competitor, but even more as a person. And our relationship has really just grown in so many different ways over the years.”
Haslem is finally calling it quits after a unique 19-year career, all spent with the Heat after he signed with the team in 2003. He went undrafted following a standout college career at Florida, making his pro debut in Europe, where Haslem lost 50 pounds.
The Miami native has been a stalwart for his hometown team ever since, quickly emerging as a longtime starter at power forward alongside the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James then transitioning into a de facto mentor and assistant coach role once age and wear and tear sapped him of athleticism.
Like Udonis Haslem, Spoelstra is a Heat lifer, joining the organization as a video coordinator in 1997 before being promoted to head coach 11 years later.
“I’m going to miss his spirit. I’m going to miss his voice. I’m going to miss his intentions. He has incredible, pure team intentions every single day,” he said of Haslem. “It’s pure. It’s always about winning, how can he help somebody else, how can he help the team, how can he help mentor. That’s what keeps his mind going constantly. The average person would be shocked by how much he’s thinking about other people in the locker room or the coaching staff. It’s a beautiful trait to have as a human being, and that’s why he’s going to be celebrated and have a big-time salute for an amazing career.”
Pat Riley already confirmed Miami will raise Haslem’s No. 40 jersey to the rafters of Kaseya Center soon after his retirement. Haslem won’t be far whenever that honor occurs. He has plans to become a minority owner of the franchise, assisting the Heat in a “hands-on” capacity night in and night out.
“A guy who’s touched so many people and inspired so many of us in this organization, and in this zip code, to make things better,” Spoelstra said. So yes, short answer, I am going to miss him, but he’s not going anywhere, it’s just going to be a different role.”
The post Heat’s Erik Spoelstra reveals what he’ll miss most about Udonis Haslem appeared first on ClutchPoints.