Udonis Haslem remains noncommittal regarding 20th season with Heat, ‘Thinking about it’

Udonis Haslem discussed grants Monday at Nova Southeastern University. What he wouldn’t grant, however, was definitive insight on what comes next regarding his NBA career.

“I don’t know,” Haslem said after completing a presentation on behalf of his foundation. “We’re thinking about it. But either way, I’m always going to be a part of the Heat family. I ain’t going nowhere, whether I play or not. I’m always going to impact that organization.”

Although the intent to return for a 20th season with the Miami Heat had appeared evident, based on the team’s approach with its roster this offseason, the veteran power forward continued to defer an announcement.

Last year, Haslem announced his return for a 19th season on Aug. 15.

“For me,” he said, “it’s just a lot going on. I have a lot of things that I had to really, really think about. Twenty years is a conversation I had with my father.”

Haslem’s father, Johnnie Haslem, died last August at 70.

“Things change,” Haslem said. “He’s not here no more. Goals change.”

The Heat have retained a roster spot for Haslem for the coming season, their lone remaining spot available below the NBA’s onerous luxury tax.

At 42, Haslem is expected to become only the third player to spend an entire career of at least 20 seasons with one franchise, joining retired Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (21 seasons) and late Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (20 seasons). A return would push Haslem past former San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan and former Utah Jazz guard John Stockton, each with 19 seasons with their respective franchises.

A 20th season, Haslem said, had stood as particularly meaningful to his father.

“It’s still something that I battle with,” Haslem said, “because it’s something that we talked about and it’s something we wanted to do in a specific way. Things changed when he passed, but we’ll figure it out.”

Haslem’s role largely has been one of mentor for the Heat in recent years. He appeared in 13 games last season, none during the Heat’s run within one game of the NBA Finals. He has not appeared in more than 16 games in any of the past six seasons, appearing in only one in 2020-21.

He nonetheless has remained a presence at FTX Arena this offseason, working out last week with forward Haywood Highsmith, with plans later Monday to meet with center Omer Yurtseven.

Haslem was the oldest player in the NBA last season and is expected to be again this season. With an appearance this season, he would become the fifth-oldest player to appear in an NBA regular-season game, behind only Nat Hickey (45), Kevin Willis (44), Robert Parish (43) and Vince Carter (43).

Haslem is the Heat’s all-time leader in rebounds, despite adding only 26 to his total over the past two seasons, the only undrafted player to lead a franchise in rebounds. He stands second on the franchise list in games and minutes played.

As for Monday’s appearance, FTX and the Udonis Haslem Foundation announced the winners of their Minority Small Business Grant Initiative, with $50,000 grants to minority-owned South Florida small businesses Lil Greenhouse Grill and Kazmaleje. In addition, The Alan B. Levan-NSU Broward Center of Innovation will offer both winners additional resources.

Haslem introduced the winners by noting he was “someone who does business and a little basketball on the side.” He stressed the importance of supporting Miami-based minority-owned business, drawing a distinction from the glare on South Beach as “the other side of that bridge.”

The initiative was announced in May, with the recipients selected after a thorough review of over 50 applications by a selection committee of Udonis, Barbara Wooten, Joseph Bankman, Sylvester King, Jr, Mary Whitehead, Jason Inasi, and Thomas Eugene.

The Udonis Haslem Foundation “looks to impact the world by addressing the socio-economic and mental health issues that plague the inner cities by partnering with programs and organizations to provide increased access to services and opportunities to improve lives.” Details can be found at udcares.org.

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