40-year-old Heat veteran Udonis Haslem made his season debut on Thursday.
Haslem was ejected in three minutes after starting a confrontation with Dwight Howard.
Haslem called it “fun,” players laughed, and the coach called it his favorite moment of the season.
Miami Heat big man Udonis Haslem made his mark on his only game of the season.
On Tuesday, the 40-year-old veteran, who has spent all 19 of his NBA seasons with the Heat, checked into a game for the first time all season.
He was ejected three minutes later.
Early in the second quarter, Haslem and Philadelphia 76ers center Dwight Howard got tangled on a rebound, and Howard knocked Haslem to the floor.
Two possessions later, during a dead-ball, Haslem walked up to Howard, and the two exchanged words. Haslem put his fingers in Howard’s face, making contact. The two were quickly split up, but referees ejected Haslem, ending his brief debut.
After the game, Haslem was less than apologetic.
“It was fun,” Haslem told reporters. “It was fun. For me to just go out there and play the game of basketball, show that I can continue to play at a high level, and help my team win. It was fun.
“It’s a great memory. And, if this is the last one, I finished it the only way Udonis Haslem could: with an ejection.”
Haslem’s Heat teammates seemed tickled by the event, even though center Bam Adebayo was saying Haslem couldn’t afford to do such a thing.
“This motherf—er is crazy!” Adebayo said. “I was like, ‘UD, you can’t get tossed in your first four minutes, bro.’ How long was he in the game? Four minutes? Three! Three minutes, and you get tossed!
“I said, ‘OG, You taught me a lot. You never teached me to get tossed in three minutes.’ … Just don’t get tossed in the first three. You can get the first tech and then wait ’til the second half to get the other one. Momentum swings.”
Jimmy Butler told the “Inside the NBA” crew, “Don’t put OG in the game because he’s looking to fight.”
Even Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called it his “favorite moment of the season.”
Haslem plays an important role, even if he doesn’t play
While Haslem’s on-court impact has been minimal in recent years – he’s played in just 45 games over the last five seasons – he still serves an important role in the locker room as a mentor. Spoelstra expanded on it after Thursday’s game.
“Everybody knows in this building, but most importantly in that locker room, the level of impact that he has,” Spoelstra said. “That’s developing leaders in that locker room and helping teach and cultivate a culture that means something to us … There’s been so many amazing chapters in his career, and I’ve just enjoyed watching him evolve to this kind of mentorship.”
“It’s felt by the young players, for sure. The young players are going to remember UD for the rest of their entire careers, but the veteran players, to me, he’s had just as much of an impact, developing them, keeping them stable, keeping them growing, and continuing to evolve, and that’s from his really incredible guidance that he can reach anybody in that locker room, and the staff.”
Former NBA veteran Channing Frye said on JJ Redick’s podcast, “The Old Man and the Three,” that Haslem is the “seatbelt” of the Heat.
“Nobody ever cares that there’s seat belts in a Ferrari, but Udonis Haslem is the seatbelt – if anything goes wrong, he locks them up … He is the guy when Jimmy Butler or Victor Oladipo wanna act crazy, he brings them back into the seat, so they’re connected to the car and don’t fly off the rails.”
Haslem told reporters on Thursday that his message to the Heat is to win out the rest of the regular season, then make another run in the playoffs. He said he hasn’t thought about whether he’ll return next season.
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