Haslem plays, scores in final regular-season game with Heat

MIAMI (AP) – Udonis Haslem got a surprise before his final game: a rocking chair, courtesy of his teammates.

Haslem played Sunday in his final regular-season game, coming in as a reserve in Miami’s matchup against Orlando. But first, flanked by his family, he addressed the crowd, thanking the fans in his hometown for supporting him for two decades.

“Whether I was starting, whether I was the first guy off the bench or whether I didn’t play at all, you guys always had my back and showed love,” Haslem said. “For me, that’s priceless. That’s beautiful. And that’s why it made it all so easy, just to sacrifice everything.”

And when he was done, Heat center Bam Adebayo went out to interrupt the proceedings – and give Haslem his gift, a Heat-themed rocking chair.

“There you go man, take your seat,” Adebayo said. Haslem eventually complied.

The big moment of Haslem actually checking in – an ovation began to build as soon as he headed to the scorer’s table with 9:05 remaining in the first quarter – was both memorable and historic. At 42 years and 304 days old, Haslem became the fifth-oldest player to appear in an NBA game.

It didn’t take him long to score: A layup came with 6:13 left in the opening quarter, followed a minute later by a 3-pointer – making him the second-oldest player in NBA history to connect from beyond the arc. Only Vince Carter was older; he was 43.

He finished the first quarter with 13 points, matching the highest-scoring quarter of his career.

Haslem is completing his 20th and final season, all of them spent with the Heat. He is Miami’s all-time leading rebounder, a three-time champion, one of only three players – Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant are the others – to spend an entire career of at least two decades with one franchise and will have his No. 40 jersey retired by Miami next season.

It was the seventh appearance of the season for Haslem, who has played in 25 games over the last four years and 65 over the last seven. The Heat have wanted him back each year for what he does off the court, his leadership in the locker room and on the practice floor.

“I’m going to miss his spirit,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I’m going to miss his voice. I’m going to miss his intentions. He has incredible, pure, team intentions. Every single day, he doesn’t have a bad day. He may express himself with anger at times at his teammates or even with me, but his intentions are pure.”

The moment wasn’t lost on the Magic. Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley greeted Haslem at the scorer’s table before he checked in, and guard Cole Anthony was among those applauding when he took the floor.

“I have the utmost respect for that man,” Mosley said. “What he’s done in this league, what he’s done for this team, what he’s done for their culture, what he represents in this city. He is someone that has done what not many guys have done … stay in one place for their entire career. I have so much respect for that man.”


AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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