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News » Not starting isn't hurting Haslem's numbers

Not starting isn't hurting Haslem's numbers

Not starting isn't hurting Haslem's numbersMIAMI (AP) - Udonis Haslem is starting to enjoy this coming-off-the-bench gig.

Well, that might be a stretch. A Miami Heat co-captain, Haslem wasn't thrilled by losing his spot in the team's starting lineup, a decision coach Erik Spoelstra made so Michael Beasley could join the first-string at power forward.

But it's clearly working for Miami.

Haslem is averaging a double-double through three games, the Heat are one of five unbeaten teams remaining in the NBA, and the Miami native can now acknowledge that there's certain benefits with his new role.

"The thing about it is, I just wanted to make sure that if I was going to make this sacrifice for the team, that it was the best thing," Haslem said. "As long as Beas continues to do his job, then I don't mind coming off the bench."

Beasley is doing his job, averaging 14.3 points. Haslem is averaging 12.3 points and 10 rebounds - making him the only player out of the 15 in the NBA averaging a double-double after the season's first week to do so from the bench.

Haslem had everything working Sunday in Miami's win over Chicago, making 9 of 13 shots, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds.

"We're very encouraged by what's happened so far," Spoelstra said. "What Udonis gives you is incredible toughness and all the intangibles and beyond. He gives that second unit an anchor and gives us all incredible confidence. You're bringing in a championship power forward. When the situations are tight, you feel a lot more comfortable bringing Udonis in off the bench."

There's only 79 Heat games left, so reading too much - anything, really - into stats right now is a bit silly.

Still, there are some clear good signs.

Haslem is on pace for career-highs in scoring and rebounding. His minutes-per-game over his first six NBA seasons are essentially the same as what he's getting so far this year. And he's getting as many shots per game as ever before, one of the distinct pluses of being on the second unit and not being the No. 4 or No. 5 option when starters like reigning scoring champion Dwyane Wade are on the court.

"For the first time in a long time, it feels like I'm playing like high school and playing like how I played in college," Haslem said. "Coming out with the first group, there's a lot more thinking involved, because you have to defer to Dwyane and (Jermaine O'Neal). As a team player, being a winner, I had no problem with that. Now with the second group, I have opportunity to be more aggressive."

It shows.

In years past, Haslem has flourished with what the system gave him, largely jumpers from the top of the key and along the baseline. Now, he's putting the ball on the floor more, spinning to the basket, showing off all sorts of moves he hadn't flashed often in his NBA career until now.

"He knows the ball will come to him a little more with that second unit," Spoelstra said. "We are running some two-man action with him a little bit more and after time-outs we're running some specials for him. He's earned the confidence."

At this rate, he'll earn some money, too.

It's a contract year for Haslem, who's in the final season of a $33 million, five-year deal with the Heat. Losing the starting spot figured to hurt his free-agent potential next summer, but after three games, it now seems like being a reserve may not hurt him whatsoever.

"It's on me to take care of my business from there," Haslem said.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 2, 2009


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