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.