Heat’s Udonis Haslem now says he’s leaning toward returning next season

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Udonis Haslem said he’d retire after the season, following longtime Heat teammate Dwyane Wade out the door.

But Haslem has apparently swung the other direction.

Haslem, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

“I am leaning towards doing one more season,” Haslem told the Miami Herald on Thursday evening. “But it’s not 100 percent. For me, physically and mentally I’m still 100 percent engaged to help these guys get where they need to go. It’s just about the time. Is it time to do something different?”

Of course, Haslem can’t unilaterally declare he’ll keep playing. Someone must sign him. Haslem, who turns 39 in June, has barely played the last few seasons.

But I’d expect the Heat to re-sign him if he wants to return. He has spent his entire 16-year career in Miami and embodies the franchise’s culture. The Heat value his veteran mentorship. Part of their success is creating a culture where someone like Haslem can play as long as he wants.

That said, I wonder whether they prefer he retires. They’re so good at identifying and developing marginal young players. An open roster spot could go quite far in Miami.

Ultimately, I expect the Heat to do whatever Haslem wants – but maybe try to nudge him toward retirement before he decides.