According to the Associated Press’ Tim Reynolds, Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem’s rehab from a torn ligament in his left foot is “on schedule,” and Haslem is hoping to return to the team in late March.
Haslem’s injury took place on November 20th. The Heat lost the game he was injured in, lost three of their next four games, and then went on to win 17 of their next 18 games. The insane thing about the Heat’s recent dominance has been that they’ve essentially done it without their 4th and 5th best players — Haslem has missed all 18 games, and Mike Miller has only shot 1-12 from the field in limited minutes as the Heat try to work him back into the rotation. James Jones’ dead-eye three point shooting and surprisingly adept defense have softened the blow of Miller’s injury — Miller will add more athleticism and playmaking to Miami’s rotations, but the Heat don’t exactly lack athletic playmakers on the perimeter. Miller will definitely help the Heat when he gets back in sync, but he’s something of of a luxury item for them.
Haslem, on the other hand, fills a clearer need than Miller does. Although the much-maligned Joel Anthony has stepped up his play during the last 18 games, combining sustained flashes of defensive brilliance with momentary flashes of offensive competence, Juwan Howard has not enjoyed the kind of success that James Jones has. Howard is still a crafty veteran capable of sinking an open mid-range shot or two, but giving the 37-year old Howard’s minutes back to Haslem would instantly make the Heat more athletic, better on the boards, and more capable of scoring inside; as of right now, Howard is averaging one made basket at the rim every ten games.
LeBron, Wade, and Bosh are dominating the league with the rest of the Heat’s players making minimal contributions right now, but working Miller and Haslem back into the rotation and getting them to contribute at 100% could mean the difference between a championship or a playoff exit for the Heat.