New Miami Heat executive Udonis Haslem was dripping sweat after the team’s practice in Atlanta on Friday afternoon.
That’s because Haslem isn’t an ordinary NBA team executive, with the Heat announcing his hiring as the vice president of basketball development earlier this week.
“Kind of figuring out what the role will look like,” a sweaty Haslem said Friday after putting up shots alongside Heat center Bam Adebayo following the team’s practice at the Hawks’ practice facility. “I want to make sure I maximize my talents as a person, and I want to make sure that I give the most I can to the organization. So I don’t want to just be put in one position. I want to be able to move around a little bit and help everywhere I can.”
Yes, that’s Udonis Haslem shooting alongside Bam Adebayo after practice today in Atlanta. pic.twitter.com/uJ72FIohz4
— Anthony Chiang (@Anthony_Chiang) November 10, 2023
On the Heat’s press release announcing Haslem’s hiring, it lists the responsibilities that come with his new front office role as “being a resource to the coaching staff, mentoring both Heat and Skyforce [the Heat’s G League affiliate] players as well as representing the organization in the community and in business endeavors.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra described Haslem’s position Wednesday as “all-encompassing.”
“First and foremost, being connected to these guys, the development of these guys, being a champion before you become a champion, habits, professionalism and things like that,” Haslem said of his priorities as a Heat executive. “Second, being a part of the organization at the higher level, understanding how the business part works. Just sitting down at the table with Micky [Arison], Pat [Riley] and Nick [Arison] and those guys and just understanding how the organization that I’ve been working for 20 years, how it works and how it runs and how I can be a part of that moving forward as well.”
The timing of the Heat’s stay in Atlanta for Saturday’s game against the Hawks worked out for Haslem, who was already in Atlanta this week doing broadcasting work for NBA TV. Haslem recently embarked on an NBA broadcasting career.
All of this comes just five months into retirement for Haslem, 43, after his playing career came to an end in June following a 20-year NBA career spent entirely with the Heat.
“I’m a very ambitious person and everything that I’m involved in are things that are personal to me,” Haslem said. “So it allows me to be the best version of myself. I love watching basketball and talking basketball all day. It’s hard to watch a game at home because I start critiquing and complaining. So now I can get paid to critique and complain. And just being in the locker room with these guys, that’s who I am, that’s what I am. Moving the needle.”
How hands on does Haslem want to be as a team executive?
“As hands on as possible,” he said. “I’ve already been hands on. Texting, talking, hanging out with guys.”
Haslem, a Miami native who went to Miami High and the University of Florida before spending his entire NBA career with the Heat, has already been an active participant at most of the Heat’s home practices. Now, he expects to be on some Heat trips moving forward.
“It’s the first time for this,” said Haslem, who spent the previous 16 seasons as a Heat captain. “So there’s a lot of feeling out. But one thing I know for sure is this right here with these guys is first. Upstairs and everything else comes next. So winning championships, moving the needle in the locker room, communication, camaraderie, connection — that’s the first part of this.”
But the business side also interests Haslem, who initially hoped to become part of the team’s ownership group when he retired. Haslem is still hopeful he’ll one day be able to join the Heat’s ownership group.
“I always wanted to understand how that stuff works,” Haslem said. “I always wanted to be a part of that stuff at a higher level. Not just showing up, shaking hands, kissing babies. But really understand what goes on behind the scenes with events and the partnerships and all the things we’re connected to in the city of Miami and just around the world. For me, I’ve been working in this organization for 20 years. I understand the locker room, I understand the culture. Now it’s trying to understand the business part.”
The Heat not only needs to replace starting guard Tyler Herro’s scoring, shooting and playmaking, it must also replace his minutes.
Prior to exiting Wednesday’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies late in the first quarter because of a Grade 2 ankle sprain, Herro averaged a team-high 37.7 minutes per game through the Heat’s first seven games of the season. That would currently rank second in the NBA behind only Portland Trail Blazers guard Shaedon Sharpe, who is averaging a league-high 39.1 minutes per game this season.
How will the Heat replace Herro’s minutes while he’s sidelined for at least the next two weeks? Several players will need to play more minutes to help fill that void.
“I’m not going to fill in with one player at 37 minutes, even with Duncan [Robinson],” Spoelstra said following Friday’s practice. “It will be some different things in the rotation that I’m still working through right now.”
It remains to be seen who will start in Herro’s place while he’s out, but Robinson appears to be the front-runner after Spoelstra started Robinson in the injured Herro’s spot in the second half of Wednesday’s game in Memphis.
Robinson’s three-point shooting helps create the floor spacing Herro provided with his outside shooting, which is an important element for a Heat starting lineup that is led by Adebayo and Jimmy Butler.
“We’ll have to really lean into our defense, which I wanted us to get that to a higher level anyway,” Spoelstra said of playing without Herro for the next few weeks. “And offensively, we’re not going to ask any single person to try to fill in that gap of whatever Tyler was doing from a usage standpoint and scoring. We will, for sure, lean more into Jimmy and Bam. Jimmy’s usage, I wanted that to move up a little bit anyway. So we’ll play off of those two guys.”
The short-handed Heat recalled three-point shooting forward Cole Swider, who was in Sioux Falls with the Heat’s G League affiliate as part of his two-way contract. Swider joined the Heat in Atlanta for Friday’s practice and Saturday’s game, and will miss the Sioux Falls Skyforce’s G League season opener on Saturday against the Indiana Mad Ants.
“There are minutes that are needed,” Spoelstra said of the decision to have Swider rejoin the Heat. “I don’t know whether he’ll play, but we do need another body just in case — foul trouble and different things.”
In addition, two-way contract forward Jamal Cain was in Atlanta for Friday’s practice after not traveling with the team to Memphis for the start of the trip because of a non-COVID illness.
Forward Nikola Jovic, who was also in Miami dealing with a non-COVID illness, was also expected to re-join the Heat in Atlanta on Friday night.
Along with missing Herro, the Heat remains without wing Caleb Martin (left knee tendinosis) and RJ Hampton (G League assignment) for Saturday’s matchup against the Hawks. Butler is listed as probable with right knee tendinitis.