The Miami Heat’s Udonis Haslem has reportedly started rehabilitation on his left foot this week and the timing couldn’t be better.
His expected return is in the broad timeframe of March to early April. The Heat finish up their regular season on April 13 in Toronto. To anyone who doubted this man’s return after he ruptured a ligament in his left foot back in November, I pity you.
Haslem is in the breed of former Heat big man Alonzo Mourning. His toughness and willpower are in a different realm. He is the anti-Vince Carter, a player who goes down as frequently as the front pin in a bowling alley.
Implementing Haslem Into the Rotation
Assuming Haslem’s rehab goes well (knock on some serious wood), I fully expect a seamless transition into the rotation.
The reason Mike Miller took awhile to get going is because he’s a playmaker, a shooter whose game revolves around him holding the basketball. The opposite can be said for Udonis.
He doesn’t need the ball to be productive. Haslem is a master at the little things. He dives on the floor for loose balls. He takes charges. He knocks down mid-range jumpers when LeBron James or Dwyane Wade get doubled.
Everything he does well doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s game. I find his game similar to a Tic Tac. No matter how much you’ve had to eat, when someone offers you a Tic Tac, are you really going to say no? Everyone likes Tic Tacs, they’re a good fit at any time.
Where Will the Minutes Come From?
Haslem was averaging 26.5 minutes before he went down. Obviously, they would like to have him worked back in slowly, but how slow is the question? Assuming he returns towards the end of March—a fair assessment considering the size of this man’s heart—the Heat won’t have the luxury of easing him into the lineup.
A championship caliber team wants to be hitting its stride by the second round, and to accomplish that feat Haslem needs to get acclimated before the season ends.
The minutes will likely come from a combination of Zydrunas Ilgauskas (17.0 minutes a night), Juwan Howard (11.1 minutes), Joel Anthony (20.6) and James Jones (21.1). In fact, expect Ilgauskas’ minutes to all but disappear at some point in the playoffs, especially against teams like the Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics. Defense wins championships and his “defense” cannot be counted on in the playoffs.
This Heat’s ideal lineup will eventually be James, Wade, Miller, Chris Bosh and Haslem. They are above and beyond the five best players on this team. I don’t care how you label them position wise, this lineup is going to be a killer on both ends of the floor.
For the Heat to have their best shot at winning the title this season, they need the elbow-flailing, hardworking, tenacious Haslem to be a a strong part of this team.
I’m giddy with excitement just thinking about the following scenario. The setting is the Eastern Conference Finals. Wade takes the ball hard to the rim and gets hammered by consensus league douche Kevin Garnett, sending him hard to the floor.
Who do you think will be the one to get up in Garnett’s grill?