Chris Paul Says He's Udonis Haslem's 'Biggest Fan' amid Criticism of Heat Contract

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVAugust 28, 2022

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Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul sees the utility in the Miami Heat bringing Udonis Haslem back for a 20th season in the NBA.

Speaking to a group of high school players in Los Angeles, Paul said he might be Haslem's "biggest fan" because older veterans can be valuable in setting an example for younger teammates:

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The Heat announced Tuesday they re-signed Haslem ahead of the 2022-23 NBA season.

The move inevitably sparked a reaction because the 42-year-old forward plays so sparingly at this point in his career. Since 2016-17, he has logged a total of 406 minutes in the regular season.

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Udonis Haslem is the highest-paid active player per minute in the last five seasons.<br><br>(Good for him). <a href="https://t.co/0Dwwef3Qqu">pic.twitter.com/0Dwwef3Qqu</a>

Still, team president Pat Riley had high praise for Haslem in Tuesday's announcement.

"From the first day that I saw him compete, to the last day when we retire his jersey at our FTX home, UD will go down in our team’s history as one of the best to ever play for the Miami Heat," Riley said.

For years, the Heat have been lauded for the culture they've established behind the scenes. Head coach Erik Spoelstra and his staff continually maximize the talent at their disposal and turn undrafted players or other teams' castoffs into valuable pieces of the rotation.

Speaking with GQ's Tyler R. Tynes last October, Haslem laid out what "Heat Culture" means to him:

"It’s a lifestyle, bro. You can’t just tap in when the season start and tap back out when it’s over. That’s how yo ass get hurt next year in training camp. You pretty much have to stay in shape year around...Heat Culture is discipline, accountability, work ethic and enjoying somebody else’s success."

He also explained how the organization asks him to lead by example:

"They give me the keys and they trust me. And I handle it. There’s no doubt in their minds...I’ve earned this respect and I take it very seriously. I’m 41 years old, man. I walk in the locker room and I’m 223 pounds and have six percent body fat. I don’t have to be six percent body fat if I don’t want to. I don’t have to do none of this s--t. But it’s a standard, dog. [...] I tell people in here all the time: you have to evolve, you don’t have to change...when you walk in here you have to evolve, you have to change, you have to pivot, you can’t be the same player you was somewhere else dog, because that ain’t gonna work here."

It's not just about mentoring young players and getting them acclimated to the NBA, either.

During a loss to the Golden State Warriors in March, things got heated on the bench between Haslem and Jimmy Butler.

Haslem told Cari Champion how directly confronting one another to resolve issues was how the Heat solved problems, adding that "it's the best way to communicate."

Haslem's value on the court is minimal by now. But there's no question he can still make a positive impact for the Heat.


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