It's a great time to be an NBA fan.
If the epic 2010 NBA Finals isn't capturing you're attention there's always the hype and excitement surrounding the upcoming off-season. Much of that hype can be attributed to the status of the Miami Heat and their superstar shooting guard Dwyane Wade.
Will he stay in Miami? Who will be joining him?
To all the fans who wanted another article on Wade, I'm sorry but this isn't one of them.
Today the topic of conversation is veteran mainstay Udonis Haslem, one of the best rebounding and consistent big men in Miami Heat history.
If you're a Heat fan you know all about what Haslem brings to the table; toughness, intensity and a blue-collar work ethic that often goes unnoticed but has a markedly big impact on the outcome of every game.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Haslem, here's some background information. The man who goes by the nickname "U.D." was signed by the Heat as a rookie after failing to be drafted in 2003. While Haslem did not receive the same fanfare as Dwyane Wade, both showed to be extremely promising rookies.
Haslem accumulated rookie averages of 7.3 PPG and 6.3 RPG in just under 24 minutes per game and followed that up with 10.9 PPG and a career high 9.1 RPG the following season.
Haslem quickly became a fan favorite in Miami due to his determination and hard-work on both ends of the floor. He became known for his strong physical defense and rebounding, in addition to his signature patented mid-range jumper.
In the 2006 NBA Finals he scored 17 points in the title-clinching Game Six against the Dallas Mavericks.
Flash back to the present and Haslem will hit the free-agent market at the same time as Dwyane Wade. His reputation as a winner and no-nonsense veteran in the league will command some serious money, likely more than the seven million he was paid for his services in 2009-10.
While Miami's priority is to retain Wade and find a suitable superstar sidekick for him, they should be wary not to overlook the value of U.D. in their championship aspirations for future seasons.
Anyone who knows basketball understands the critical importance of having a hard-working big man who can step out and hit the jumper, never quits on defense, and does the little things that don't show on the box score.
If the Heat are serious about transforming into a contender they should realize it's not only Wade that they need to bring back.
When the dust settles there will only be a few players from the current Heat squad returning to South Beach. For the Heat's sake, let's hope U.D. is one of them.