MIAMI -- Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is preparing for Heat forward Udonis Haslem to start in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Haslem, 6-8, 235 pounds, played in only 13 regular season games as he recovered from surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left foot.
Haslem received extensive minutes in the last few playoff games for the Heat. He played 25 minutes in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals vs. the Chicago Bulls. While Haslem didn't score any points, he missed all four of his shots, he grabbed five rebounds and was a force inside.
"We know we're going to see a lot of him in the series," Carlisle said prior to Game 1 on Tuesday night. "There's a very good chance he could even start in Game 1. I think that's a very good possibility. It sounds like that may happen. They are going to play him a lot. They're going to want to get him on Dirk [Nowitzki] I'm sure because he's one of their bettre defenders. Every game he's gotten better and better."
Haslem missed the first round series against the Philadelphia 76ers and made his return in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals vs. the Boston Celtics. He's played at least 20 minutes in the last four postseason games and it's expected he will do so again.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra wouldn't commit to Haslem starting but praised the power forward from returning from a foot injury.
"It's hard to explain UD and what's inside of him," Spoelstra said. "The championship heart. None of us really anticipated he would be available to this extent. But he has complete and 100 percent freedom and clearance from the [medical] staff. So unless I hear otherwise from he or the staff, from him or the staff, I'll continue to play him. The championship intangibles that he brings are invaluable."