Udonis Haslem and the Miami Heat spent parts of two days reviewing many scenarios, hoping there was a way to avoid surgery.
And Miami's toughest player is out indefinitely — possibly many months.
Haslem's agent, Henry Thomas, told The Associated Press Monday that his client will have surgery Tuesday to repair a badly torn ligament in his left foot, an injury that came Saturday night against Memphis on a play that looked almost harmless at first. Instead, it'll go down as a significant blow to the Heat, who entered Monday ranked 19th in rebounding in the 30-team NBA, and now will be without their best player in that department.
"We lose a warrior," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
In the short term, the Heat plan to give more minutes to Juwan Howard at the spot backing up starting power forward Chris Bosh. LeBron James and James Jones will be used at that position as well in certain situations, Spoelstra said.
The Heat do not plan to release a timetable for Haslem's return until after the surgery.
"His toughness, not disrespecting anybody on the team, is going to be tough to replace," point guard Carlos Arroyo said. "He's such a tough guy and what he brings is something special every night. But we have the guys to do it. We understand it's going to take everybody to continue to work on those details that he provides for us. Rebounding, loose balls, charges. We just have to step up."
Haslem is considered by teammates to be not only Miami's grittiest guy, but the primary locker-room leader as well.
The Heat have said for years that Haslem's work off-the-court and in the locker-room is one of the reasons why he's so valued, and Spoelstra said he expects the co-captain to keep that leadership role during his absence.
"That was the first thing I mentioned to him yesterday when he was getting his tests," Spoelstra said Monday. "I said, 'You've been through a lot already in your life. You will get through this. And secondly, your role as team captain and leader won't change.' We will still need that leadership and his voice behind the scenes."
It's been a trying few months for Haslem, who thought he was going to leave his hometown during the off-season and sign elsewhere because the Heat, at first, simply could not afford to keep him. Then James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade all agreed to take less money in their Heat deals, which helped Miami offer Haslem $20 million for five years.
Days after Haslem accepted the new Miami deal, his mother died of cancer.
And now comes another blow.
Wade missed almost the entire pre-season with a strained hamstring and now has a sprained left wrist. James has been dealing with a shin problem for a couple weeks, and Mike Miller hasn't played yet this season and isn't expected back until after Christmas because of a broken thumb and ligament damage.
Miller signed with Miami so he and Haslem — close friends from their days together as Florida Gators — could play together.
For the next few weeks, at least, they'll be sitting together in suits on the Heat bench.
Haslem's 8.2 rebounds per game are tops among all NBA reserves; entering Monday, San Antonio's Antonio McDyess was second on that list with 6.6 per game. Haslem also has four double-doubles already this season, more than any other two NBA reserves coming into Monday's play combined.
Clearly, replacing Haslem will be difficult.
For now, the approach will be to try to do so from within.
Spoelstra said he and Heat president Pat Riley spoke Sunday about all options, including adding another player, but the indication after Miami's shootaround practice before hosting the Indiana Pacers on Monday was that no significant roster changes are imminent.
"We feel like we have enough," Spoelstra said. "We are losing a big component of our defence and our rebounding, and that has been a concern in our five losses, but we went over it today. And if we want to make a collective change in our rebounding and controlling that paint area … individually guys have to make a change. We have to have some career-high rebounding numbers as we move forward from each individual."
The Heat were prepared for the worst, especially after Haslem needed to be carried off the floor by centre Jamaal Magloire and trainer Jay Sabol on Saturday night.
Haslem was playing body-to-body defence against Memphis' Zach Randolph on the left side of the lane, trying to draw a charge. No foul was called after the two collided. After Haslem fell backward to the court, he immediately pointed to, then grabbed, the inside of his left foot.
"So many times in 7 ½ years I just see him pop up through some of the worst bumps and bruises and injuries you can have," Spoelstra said. "I knew it was probably something a little more serious when he couldn't get up."