MIAMI — Udonis Haslem arrived at the Miami Heat facility for a workout one day last week, and was told he needed to sign a waiver before he took the court.
The reason: Technically, he wasn’t on the team.
“That was a little weird, having to do that,” Haslem (University of Florida) said.
It won’t be a problem for the next year. Haslem officially signed his one-year, $2.4 million contract with the Heat on Monday, a deal that was struck last week and finally became official when he put pen to paper. Haslem will enter his 16th NBA season, all with the Heat, and that means the Miami native will be with his hometown franchise for more than half of its 31-year history.
“For the hometown kid in me, that means the world,” Haslem said. “I wish I understood how big that is right now, because I really don’t, but I know it’s big.”
Haslem was the seventh-oldest player in the NBA last season — and will rise at least one spot on that list this season, with the retirement of San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili. Vince Carter is 41 and will play for Atlanta, Dirk Nowitzki is 40 and back with Dallas, and Haslem is 38.
“It’s great to have our captain back,” Heat President Pat Riley said.
The others who played last season and are older than Haslem are Jason Terry, Damien Wilkins and Jamal Crawford. They all remain unsigned for the coming season.
So, too, does Dwyane Wade. He and Haslem are the only two players who were part of all three Heat championship teams. Haslem said he’s busily recruiting his business partner — the pair shares several off-court interests, including a pizza chain — to come back as well.
“My mindset has always been for us to finish it together,” Haslem said. “I want us to do a whole season together. Experience the road, dinner on the road, go through that whole process. I want us to experience that together.”
Wade tweeted his congratulations to Haslem when the deal was signed.
“You are (the) most selfless person I’ve ever met,” Wade said in his tweet.
Haslem appeared in only 14 games last season, and hasn’t had much of a role with the Heat in the last three seasons. Haslem believes he can still play — he has kept himself in tremendous condition — but knows that he probably won’t have a big on-court presence again.
Still, a meeting with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra last week helped seal the deal to return.
“Me and Spo were honest with each other,” Haslem said. “Honesty is not always telling somebody what they want to hear. And we both have gotten to that point in our careers where we value each other’s opinions, whether we want to hear them or not. We trust each other. We root for each other. We both have the best interests of this team in mind.”
But even if he doesn’t get much in the way of minutes, Haslem knows he’s valued. Spoelstra raves about the way he interacts and mentors teammates, and Haslem said that was a huge part of his decision as well.
“It’s about my love for the organization and my love for the guys,” Haslem said. “It wasn’t about me. If I was looking for playing time, I could have gone someplace else or played in China or something. But at the end of the day, would it have made me as happy as being around this organization and being around these guys? No, I don’t think it would.”