NBA Free Agency: Re-Signing Udonis Haslem Is Third on the Heat’s Agenda

April 9th, 2010 by Michael Pinto Leave a reply »

With so much concern over the future of Dwyane Wade and which marquee free agent the Miami Heat will be able to snag, there hasn't been a lot of room leftover to worry about the fate of other players on the roster. 

After joining the Heat as an undrafted free agent in 2003, Udonis Haslem has transformed himself from a borderline NBA talent into one of the most underrated power forwards in the league.

He's been a captain of the team for the last three years, he does all the dirty work, plays hard defense, and is a model citizen on and off the court. He may not be as talented as Alonzo Mourning was, but he's got the same heart and passion that made Alonzo into one of the best players in NBA history. 

Haslem is a warrior, a player team president Pat Riley said has the highest tolerance of pain he's ever seen. If U.D. can walk, he'll suit up. He plays hard every play and demands the same from his teammates. 

That kind of leadership has won games in the past. His 11 points in the fourth quarter against Toronto on Mar. 28 was one of the biggest reasons the Heat turned a 10-point fourth quarter deficit into a 97-94 victory. 

Besides Wade, Haslem is the most important player on the Heat's roster. There's a good reason he was the team's sole captain in 2008-09.

But he's a free agent this summer and there might not be enough cap space to re-sign him. Assuming Miami is able to re-sign Wade and bring in a second max free agent, depending on where the cap falls, the Heat may not have enough money to offer Haslem a deal around the midlevel; if even that. 

The first time Haslem was a free agent he took about an $8 million pay-cut to remain in Miami. He turned down a more lucrative deal from the Cleveland Cavaliers out of loyalty to the franchise that game him a chance when no one else would. 

This time around, he may not be willing to do the same thing. Haslem may be underrated, but he's still going to command a large chunk of change in the offseason. A lot of teams will be pursuing him and he'll have several pricy offers thrown his way. 

The Heat recognize that, and you can bet they will do whatever they can to retain him. But they won't alter their hopes of adding a marquee free agent to do so; that comes first. 

Miami will be losing a lot of its roster this offseason; there just isn't enough money to even consider keeping more than one or two of their impending free agents—besides Wade of course. 

As soon as the Heat lock up Wade and whomever their prize free agent catch will be, Haslem should become the franchise's No. 1 priority.

Losing him would be a bigger blow than most people are willing to accept. He's the best one-on-one defender in Miami's front court, a solid rebounder, and a good mid-range shooter. 

Dwyane Wade may be the Heat's meal ticket, but Haslem is the team's heart and soul. Wade knows it, Riley knows it, the rest of the roster knows it. 

Even more than that, Wade trusts no one more than Haslem. They've been teammates since day one and partners through rookie struggles, a championship, the fallout, and the rebuilding project. 

Wade wants him here probably more than any other player on the roster, including Michael Beasley. 

Haslem might play off the bench, but he is more than a reserve. Don't let the fact that he doesn't start fool you into thinking otherwise. If he's not here next season, the team will struggle without his presence on the court and in the locker room. 

So when free agency rolls around, hope that the Heat give their captain his due and offer every dime leftover in hopes it's enough to keep him in Miami. 

This story was originally syndicated from Bleacher Report - Front Page.
Read the original Article Here

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