On July 7th Dwyane Wade agreed to sign with the Chicago Bulls, ending his 13-season career with the Miami Heat. Players and fans were in utter shock of the news of Wade returning to his hometown, especially long-time teammate Udonis Haslem.
"I never imagined it ending like this," Haslem said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "It hasn’t really set in 100 percent."
Wade and Haslem have played together since 2003 and their 13 seasons side by side made them the longest tenured teammate pair to make their debut in the same season in NBA history, according to the Heat.
Haslem was proactive throughout the talks to court Wade back to the Heat.
"I talked to him, obviously I wanted him to come back but there was a lot of change he was feeling," said Haslem.
The dynamic of the team has changed completely, because in the past Wade was the Heat’s building block and the franchise was structured around him. Obviously now, that is not the case. The Heat look to their future by retaining recent superstar Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson who both had the opportunity to sign with other franchises in free agency.
"My leadership was getting to practice early, the guy who did the dirty work, staying late, working hard with the rookies,” said Haslem about his participation on the court.
The work off the court used to be run by Wade, but now is the responsibility of Haslem.
"My role will change off the floor, coordinating stuff outside, going to dinners and movies,” Haslem said.
Haslem said that Wade was a firm believer that relationships off the court were just as important as the ones on, and that many times they reflected each other. On a team with so many young players Haslem’s mentor role will be pivotal. Justise Winslow was taken under Dwyane Wade’s wing, but now that he’s gone Haslem will fill that void.
"I don’t think it will have any effect on Justise, he is well matured beyond his years. There’s no doubt in my mind he will reach his full playing potential,” said Haslem.
It has been a peculiar year in the NBA. Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan are now retired, Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade who were the faces of their respective franchises left during free agency. With all the craziness circulating it can all be hard to grasp, but not for Haslem.
"No offense to them, but I only care about number three going to Chicago," he said.