Basketball / Sports

Miami Heat officially rewards 'team player' Udonis Haslem with two-year deal

Udonis Haslem was the first player to leave millions on the table in the hopes of keeping the Heat together.

On Friday, the Heat rewarded him for his commitment to the franchise and the city and officially re-signed Haslem to a two-year deal. Haslem's new deal was made official after an emotional three days that saw former Heat players Mike Miller and James Jones join LeBron James in Cleveland.

"Udonis Haslem has been a fixture in Miami over the last 11 years," Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement. "He's a team player, an encompassing all-purpose player that would play just about any position or role in order to win."

Haslem, a three-time champion for the Heat along with Dwyane Wade, played a limited role in the 2014 NBA Finals, but he likely will be more involved in the Heat's interior plans next season with outside-shooting forwards Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis and Jones no longer on the team.

Battier retired after the Finals and Lewis agreed to a one-year contract with the Dallas Mavericks late Tuesday. Jones, in somewhat of a shocking move, agreed to leave the Heat for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. Jones, a Miami native and former University of Miami standout, had said after the Finals that he wanted to remain with the Heat.

Haslem's new contract, which the Heat will file under the collective bargaining agreement's "room" exception, is reportedly worth $2.732 million in the first year. His old contract would have paid him $4.6 million next season. Under his new contract, Haslem is due a 4.5 percent raise for the 2015-16 season.

The former Miami High and University of Florida star has left more money on the table out of loyalty to the Heat than many NBA players earn in their entire careers. He sacrificed potentially $14 million in 2010 to stay with the Heat and pursue championships with his hometown team, and he was rewarded with two more rings. Now, Haslem is set to become a Miami-Dade and South Florida legend for life.

Haslem, 34, is adored by Heat fans, and upper management views Haslem as the gold standard for a franchise that prides itself on toughness, loyalty and hard work, and preaches sacrifice for the team above all else.

Over the years, Haslem has sacrificed more than anyone else for the Heat, the team that gave him a chance in 2003 as an undrafted free agent. He is entering his 12th year in the league and is the Heat's all-time leader in rebounds (5,332).

"It's been such a privilege and honor to have him with the organization and I'm so happy that he decided to come back," Riley said.

(c)2014 The Miami Herald

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