Udonis Haslem: “I feel like I could go three or four more years”

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Udonis Haslem, at age 35, will be back in Miami next season for at least one more run. Which seems fitting after a dozen seasons in South Beach already.

His game is deteriorating a little with age. However, because it was always based more on energy and effort — playing smart defense, crashing the boards, being an enforcer — he still brings some value to the court. He started 25 games and played almost 1,000 minutes for the Heat last season, averaging 4.2 points and 4.2 assists per game.

Haslem may be nearing the end of his career, but he told Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post he isn’t ready to hang up his sneakers.

“I feel pretty durable,” he said after his second straight season playing fewer than 1,000 minutes (after averaging 2,283 during his first seven seasons and playing fewer than 1,400 just once in his first 10). “I just make sure to keep myself ready and give myself a chance to play this game.

“I feel fine. I feel like I could go three or four more years depending on how Coach might need to use me or what the situation might be. When I was needed to go out there and play big minutes, I was able to put up some pretty decent numbers. If these guys need me, I’ve gotta make sure I stay ready.”

Haslem could be leaned on to prove he still has some gas in the tank next season — he did that with a few key games down the stretch last season (he scored 18 points against the Pistons, for example).

The Heat will start Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside up front, and behind them bring in Josh McRoberts, Amare Stoudemire, and Chris Andersen (although the Birdman has been mentioned as having been shopped around by the Heat). That’s an interesting front line but not the most durable one ever, and Haslem is going to have to step in some nights to make sure those guys get some rest (at the very least).

This is the last year of his contract ($2.9 million), whether the Heat will want him back remains to be seen. But he’s a veteran, stabilizing voice in the locker room, and that alone makes him a favorite of Pat Riley. So maybe three or four years isn’t out of the question.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.