May 9, 2011, 7:35 PM EDT
UPDATE 7:35 PM: Udonis Haslem not only was in uniform but got time starting in the second quarter for the Heat. He picked up two quick fouls, plus a technical foul for arguing the calls (the second was iffy).
So, welcome back.
6:02 pm: The Miami Heat are up 2-1 on the Boston Celtics, but their success has come despite the play of starting center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Every time Ilgauskas has been on the floor, the Heat have gotten torched: according to basketballvalue.com, Ilgauskas has the worst +/- of any player in the playoffs by a stunning, stunning margin.
How bad have things been for Ilgauskas? When he’s on the court, the Heat have been the worst team in the playoffs. When the infinitely more athletic Joel Anthony, Ilgauskas’ backup, has been on the court, the Heat have been the best team in the playoffs. Clearly, some changes need to be made to the Heat’s front-line rotation, but Erik Spoelstra appears to have few options. Anthony can’t play 48 minutes a game, Erick Dampier hasn’t been in the playoff rotation, and Jamaal Magloire is Jamaal Magloire.
But help might be on the way for the Heat from an unlikely source: Udonis Haslem, who hasn’t played in a game since injuring his foot on November 20th. Haslem is one of two players who played on the Heat team that won a championship in 2006, took a pay-cut to re-sign with the Heat last summer, and was supposed to be one of the Heat’s key supporting players. Haslem will be active and in uniform tonight, and according to Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post, Haslem is ready to go, saying that he’s “in good shape,” but “isn’t sure how many minutes he can play.”
Obviously, the Heat have been able to do well enough without Haslem, but his return would be a huge benefit to them if he’s anywhere near 100% and doesn’t disrupt the chemistry. The Heat can’t do any worse than they’ve done with Ilgauskas on the floor, and while replacing Ilgauskas’ minutes with minutes for Haslem makes the Heat smaller, daring the Celtics to win by posting up Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal isn’t the worst defensive strategy. Erik Spoelstra has some tough decisions to make, and whether or not he makes the right rotation choices could mean the difference between the Heat going back to Miami with a 3-1 series lead or a tie series.