Spoelstra, as Heat honors Haslem, ‘Forever our captain, forever our mentor, forever our leader’

It’s with mixed emotions, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, that he approaches moments like Saturday’s Udonis Haslem Night at Miami-Dade Arena.

No, not out of any kind of disrespect for the 42-year-old team captain, who is retiring after his 20th season with the team, but simply because the finish line is already near.

“He is everything to our franchise, so we all hope he gets recognized for all of that,” Spoelstra said, with the Heat hosting the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night. “But I also feel a certain way about it. I haven’t known a head coaching locker room without you and I don’t want to start thinking about that yet.”

As the Heat near their regular season finale on April 9 and then each time their postseason ends, it will mean a finish in Heat colors for No. 40. To that end, the team designated Saturday for designate Section 305 in his honor, at a Haslem poster distribution night and halftime honor. Formal recognition will come later, including a special ceremony at the team’s Family Festival on Sunday and then, next season, the No. 40’s retirement to the rafters.

For Spoelstra, Haslem ranks on the Mount Rushmore of team culture with Heat president Pat Riley, team owner Micky Arison and franchise insider Alonzo Mourning.

“I think it’s a big shout out to our eternal captain, our eternal mentor, our eternal leader,” Spoelstra said of the team’s “4 Days in 40” honoring Haslem. “When you talk about culture, you automatically think of Pat, Micky, Zo and UD. That is the culture.

“If I were trying to explain our culture, I would only show the highlights of UD, not just in games, but I could find only footage of him on the practice court, or mentoring when no one else is in the gym, but someone needs to do some extra conditioning. And UD, who have shown everything in this game, are leaving with a young player, just to show their support”.

memorable moment

Although not part of Haslem’s planned tributes, Haslem found himself with Dwyane Wade and Bam Adebayo in Spoelstra’s office after Wednesday night’s win over the New York Knicks.

That led to a photo of the four of them going viral.

“All of those are just beautiful memories,” Spoelstra said. “So we are in this game to compete for the ultimate prize. But we’re also in it to develop lifelong relationships. They have these intense shared experiences together and then hope to create these great memories and these bonds that will transcend just the game.

“That’s what it was that night. It came after a great victory and the four stuck in my office. And we’re not talking about touches, who gets the ball where or whatever.

“I treasure those kinds of moments.”

memorable moment too

As for the Haslem tribute and the Heat, a piece on the team website this week revealed the culprit beyond a package of Depends left in Haslem’s locker, as a nod to his age. It turns out that he is from the same teammate who has given him a walker and a potty.

“I never told him it was me until literally now,” Adebayo said.

Haslem said in the article that it is about the caring bond that is created.

“I make jokes. Bam harasses me,” Haslem said. “There is a difference”.


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