Heat forward Udonis Haslem played through much of the second half of Miami's season with a torn right meniscus, and told The Associated Press that surgery will be required to repair the previously undisclosed injury.
Haslem made the revelation Saturday after a promotional appearance where hundreds of Heat fans began lining up to see the Miami native five hours before he arrived. Surgery will occur soon, he said, and Haslem expects to be ready for training camp this fall.
"It forces me to be smart and take my time with recovery this summer," said Haslem, who just completed his 10th NBA season, all with Miami. "Obviously, I don't heal like I used to so I've got to be a lot smarter and this forces me to be smart. My body's a little weary right now, a lot more weary than it was after last year."
Haslem averaged 3.9 points in 75 regular-season games this past season for the Heat, who captured their second straight NBA title. Haslem and Dwyane Wade are the only players who have been part of all three of Miami's NBA championship clubs.
He only missed three games before the final week of the regular season, sitting out Dec. 10 against Atlanta with flu-like symptoms, Dec. 29 against Milwaukee with a neck contusion and Feb. 14 against Oklahoma City with what the team called a bruised right leg. Haslem got hurt the night before that Oklahoma City game in Portland, leaving after playing only nine minutes.
Haslem played 50 games after that injury, including Miami's playoff run.
"I'm already thinking about recovery," Haslem said.
It's already been a hectic offseason for Miami, which made the decision to use a team option and keep starting point guard Mario Chalmers and had three other players — Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and James Jones — all exercise their player-option rights to return next season. Just about everyone in the organization, including Heat President Pat Riley and stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, said they wanted those players to stick around for another year.
The next decision that should affect the Heat is the one that will be made by forward Chris "Birdman" Andersen, who becomes a free agent on Monday. Miami wants him back badly, and the Heat were 54-8 in games where Andersen played this season.
"I expected everybody that had the opportunity to come back to make the choice to come back," Haslem said. "Hopefully everything will work out with Bird and we'll have him back again at it as well. I have no idea what he'll do, but he fit in great with us. He was what we needed in that role. To me, it's almost a no-brainer."
Haslem was on the 2006-07 Heat team that came back virtually intact after winning a title, and remembers how many issues plagued that team, starting with several veterans showing up for training camp out of shape.
With it now virtually certain that next season's Heat team will be pretty close to the one that beat San Antonio in seven games for this season's championship, Haslem is sure that the same issues won't be a problem again.
"Everybody will be in shape," Haslem said. "Me and D-Wade learned that the hard way. And LeBron sets the standard so high man, everybody's got to keep up with him so nobody wants to come back out of shape."
Haslem signed hundreds of autographs for 90 minutes, then scribbled his name on many more items thrust toward him by people still waiting in line when his appearance Saturday was completed. Many of those on line at a Sports Authority store wore shirts and jerseys with Haslem's name on the back, which he still finds mindboggling.
He left $14 million on the negotiating table three summers ago just so he could remain with the Heat and not go elsewhere as a free agent.
"It's amazing," Haslem said. "It's amazing. You start to think that people are used to you and they don't appreciate you any more, but every time they get an opportunity they come out and show me love. There's a lot of support and that's what it's all about. That's why I stayed here."