MIAMI -- And then there was one.
"I don't really wear it as a badge of honor," Miami Heat captain Udonis Haslem said of his distinction as the lone remaining player from all three of the franchise's championship teams. "It's bittersweet, obviously. It's something to talk about when I'm done, that I was the last one left. But while I'm in it right now, it's still hard. It's not going to be easy."
Count Haslem among those in Miami having a hard time coming to grips with Dwyane Wade's free-agency departure to the Chicago Bulls last week after a tenuous stretch of negotiations with the Heat. Haslem and Wade arrived in Miami together in 2003. Haslem went on to become the franchise's leader in rebounds and Wade walks away as the Heat's career leader in scoring and assists.
They both hit free agency this summer, but only one is coming back to Miami.
Haslem, 36, spoke with reporters on a conference call Tuesday from South Dakota, where he was participating in a charity golf event in the hometown of another former teammate, Mike Miller. In his Q&A with the media, Haslem touched on how he's coping with moving on without Wade and also the prospects of Chris Bosh returning to action after dealing with blood clots that cut short each of his past two seasons.
His feelings after signing a one-year deal to return for a 14th season in Miami: "I'm just glad to be back. For the 13 years I've been a part of this organization, I've always had my mind set on finishing it this way. Obviously, I never envisioned finishing it without my brother. But the 13 years I spent playing with [Wade], the 13 years I spent playing with the greatest players in the league, the 13 years I spent with this organization prepared me for the next step. And that's to lead this group of guys, this next generation, even more so without Dwyane. The thing I've been able to take from him and the leadership he's brought has prepared me for the next step of my career."
Miami's roster makeover and what the first steps are going to be with a new group: "We definitely plan on getting the guys together. Me and [Bosh] have been brainstorming a little bit to get these guys together and get to know one another, get comfortable with each other and learn more about each other beyond just basketball. That's the process that helps toward winning. It's not just all about just showing up to practice, playing hard and going out and winning games. It's relationships off the floor, and that counts when you're a team on the floor."
Whether reality has set in yet, from Wade's departure to getting Haslem's deal done: "It's real. It's definitely real. But it hasn't set in 100 percent. From the conversation I've had with [Bosh], once we step into the gym for practice that first day, that's when it's going to really be real. That's when we're going to realize, obviously, that Dwyane's not there. And this is a new core group of guys, a new direction. But now, it's not really real. I'm trying not to read about it or focus on it. I'm just trying to focus on my step as a leader. I've been looking at Ray Lewis videos and things to help me focus on the next step I need to do for my career."
Whether Haslem's role will change as a veteran leader: "My role doesn't change as much as far as leading these guys on the floor, being the guy that sets the tone at practice, making sure practice is hard and we do things the right way. More so, my role will change off the floor in terms of coordinating, getting guys together. That's something Dwyane would always do, getting guys together for dinners, going to the movies, house gatherings and stuff. That was something I would leave up to those guys. More so my leadership was being to practice on time, or being to practice early if I had to work with some guys."
How active Bosh is in the process of adjusting to a new roster: "No one really knows what the situation is going to be with Chris. But me, personally, as a leader, in my mind, I'm preparing as if he's going to be here, as if he's going to be healthy and contributing. So that's the way we're going to look at it. That's the positive approach he's going to take. We're brainstorming; we're talking about it. Even before I signed my contract, once I got the word that Dwyane was going to leave, my mind immediately switched to what I need to do to lead these guys and what I need to do to make sure the new guys understood the Heat way and understand the legacy moving forward."
How tough was it to be on outside looking in with how it played out with Wade: "I talked to him. We kept in touch. I was just asking him who was talking to him and what his offers were. I wanted him to come back. But I just know, personally, there was a lot of things he was feeling that, I guess, maybe just came to a head at this particular time. For whatever reason, we -- the organization -- and him, couldn't get to an agreement. In hindsight, I don't know, I think I should have come in and pulled a Chris Paul and handcuffed him like they did DeAndre Jordan and made him change his mind. I don't know if there was anything I could have done or should have done. But I felt like it could have been avoided. But for whatever reason, it just wasn't."
On Heat's potential new playing style: "I'm sure it's going to be a new tempo. With Dwyane being out, I'm sure we're going to have to get going more. Everyone knows that Goran [Dragic] is at his best when he's in the open court, so I expect the pace is going to go up even more."
From Kevin Durant and Wade changing teams to Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant retiring: "Nothing against Kobe and Timmy, they've had great careers and are arguably the best to ever play their positions. But really, the only thing that is going to matter to me, and the only change that's going to matter to me is No. 3 going to Chicago. I don't give a damn about what Kevin Durant did and who else retired, regardless."