After Friday’s shoot around at Quicken Loans Arena, Amico Hoops conducted a brief chat with Heat veteran forward Udonis Haslem.
Q: It’s your 14th season in Miami. Does it feel like it? Are you feeling any type of effects now that you’re getting older?
Haslem: Nah. Physically I feel fine. I think more so than anything the body follows the mind, so I’ve prepared myself every day. I’m in the weight room on off days. Obviously in the offseason, I put myself through a very intense workout, so I’ve prepared myself for these situations.
As time goes on, obviously I’ve moved more into a mentor role. But that doesn’t change how I prepare, staying ready so I don’t have to get ready.
Q: With these injuries, would you consider this the most trying season you’ve been a part of so far?
Haslem: I mean the season’s not over, so it’s still early. When we get healthy, we’ll see what we really have as far as a unit, as far as a team. But right now, it’s still hard to tell. We haven’t had our team whole in a long time—so [when] we get our team whole, [if] we keep our defensive principles, we’ll see what we really have.
Q: It’s unfortunate to see guys go down—Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson to name a few. Guys like Tyler Johnson and the rookie Rodney McGruder have stepped up though.
What are you seeing with them so far in how they’ve taken the challenge?
Haslem: I see a lot of talent in Rodney. I see a lot of myself in those guys, being undrafted and having to just grind and scrape for everything. The approach that they take to every game is the same approach that I had—no fear and nothing to lose. Just go out there and compete at the highest level possible.
Q: You’ve already said it’s weird not having Dwyane Wade around, but did he leave anything on you as far as that mentor role you mentioned or being a leader?
Haslem: Yeah. I was always the captain, but I think he sharpened some of my weaknesses as a captain, as a leader, and I sharpened some of his weaknesses as a captain and a leader.
We were able to complement each other well, so once he left, he was able to be the leader he needs to be for Chicago and I’m able to be the leader I need to be for the Miami Heat.
Q: Have you at all kept in contact with Chris Bosh?
Haslem: Yeah, we talk…about fantasy football. He’s doing well, he’s doing well. It’s unfortunate with the health situation. You know friendship, loyalty, things like that don’t change, so we still keep in touch.
Q: You said the season isn’t over. What kind of steps do you need to take these next few games in order to get back on track?
Haslem: I mean, our defensive principles. We hang our hat on our defense, so regardless of who is in the rotation, who’s out of the rotation, who’s injured, who’s healthy—we have defensive principles that we stick by.
We’re usually one of the top defensive teams in this league, so we’ve got to continue to stick to those defensive principles, and when we get healthy the offense and everything else will start to come around.