It took eight seasons and 69 playoff appearances for Udonis Haslem to finally to make it to a postgame podium, a media session of his own.
"First time," the veteran power forward said Wednesday night in Chicago at the United Center, as he moved closer to a microphone bearing the NBA logo.
The appearance came with an assist, and from more than Miami Heat teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who fed off Haslem's energy to push through to an 85-75 series-evening victory over the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of these best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.
The boost came during ceaseless workout sessions with rookie center Dexter Pittman and assistant coach Keith Askins, sessions set up to assist in Pittman's transformation from 400-pound center to legitimate NBA prospect.
Initially, those workouts were supposed to be a two-man game, between Askins and the second-round NBA Draft choice out of the University of Texas.
But after Haslem was cleared to return to the court in March from his late-November foot surgery, he joined in.
"Each day that he was able to work and grind and hit with Pittman and do conditioning and get his strength back, get his timing back, every practice that we went, it seemed like a little bit more of the old Udonis was there," coach Erik Spoelstra said, as the Heat looked ahead to Sunday's Game 3 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The "old" Udonis finally resurfaced Wednesday, with his 13 points and five rebounds in 23 minutes representing his first extensive action since that foot injury in a Nov. 20 road game against the Memphis Grizzlies, an injury that was potentially season-ending.
It is why when the eighth-year veteran finally made the playoff podium, he made sure to reflect back on those sessions, of raw rookie working off the pounds and chiseled veteran working his way back.
Haslem credits Pittman, Askins for breakthrough
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel | May 20