Haslem eager to keep his role as Heat leader
MIAMI - Udonis Haslem won't be playing in Cleveland this week, or anywhere else anytime soon, either. But he still craves the battle. Miami's emotional leader is lobbying for clearance to travel with the team for Thursday night's game against the Cavaliers - the first time LeBron James returns to Cleveland as an opponent, and where a venomous, possibly even volatile scene awaits the Heat. Sounds like fun to Haslem, who's sidelined indefinitely with a torn ligament in his left foot."I would love to be there in Cleveland," Haslem said. "I want a piece of that. By any means necessary. You can take the other foot if you let me go to Cleveland." It's expected that Haslem will not accompany Miami when the team flies to Ohio late Wednesday night; typically, injured Heat players don't travel on one-game road trips, so as not to disrupt their rest or rehabilitation schedules at home. Either way, live or on television, Haslem will be watching, which is about all he can do these days. Haslem's season may have ended - although he insists he'll be back by April - earlier this month when he took a misstep during the third quarter of a game in Memphis and ruptured the Lisfranc ligament in his left foot. Surgery repaired the tear, but there's no denying the injury was a major blow to Miami. "I knew this would be the hardest season that we would ever encounter as a team," Haslem said. "I didn't know it would be like this. It's real tough, but I'm still looking to try to make it back at some point in the season, obviously later than sooner." He is one of the leaders in the Heat locker room, so he'll be around the club as much as possible over the coming weeks and months. Haslem wasn't in Dallas on Saturday night when the Heat held a players-only meeting for about 40 minutes following a loss, but said he had no issue with the team deeming that session necessary. At 10-8, the Heat are not what anyone - themselves included - expected, especially after a summer where James and Chris Bosh were signed to play alongside another All-Star in Dwyane Wade. But Haslem doesn't doubt that Miami can get rolling. "One thing I know about this team is, I know we're all on the same page and we're all working to get this thing in the right direction," Haslem said. "And I know that for a fact because I've spoken to the guys. I've spoken to Dwyane, I've spoken to LeBron, I've spoken to Chris, and everybody's on the same page as far as putting this thing on track." In short, he says they need to scrap and claw, which are his specialties. It's what the Heat need right now, and being a spectator for the next few months makes the pain of going through surgery and rehabilitation worse, Haslem said. "A lot worse. A lot worse. A lot worse," Haslem said. When things got heated during the Miami-Washington game Monday night, Haslem felt disappointed that he wasn't part of the pushing and shoving and jawing. He lauded Juwan Howard for coming to the defense of Joel Anthony after a flagrant foul was committed by Washington's Hilton Armstrong, even though the retaliation got Howard ejected. "I told him I got $200 for the fine," Wade said afterward, "but he said he was good." If Haslem had been out there, he likely would have been in the fracas as well, just as he would have been if things get dicey in Cleveland on Thursday night. Instead, he'll be a defacto assistant coach for a while, pulling guys aside and telling them what he's seeing. "I can obviously be a lot more vocal, but at the same time, I'm not in the trenches with the guys," Haslem said. "It doesn't make me feel as comfortable as it usually would being out there playing with those guys to say things, because I don't want to be the guy that's always just pointing out negative things from the outside looking in."