Udonis Haslem returns to Miami Heat practice after mourning father's death

MIAMI -- Udonis Hadlem and Bam Adebayo shouted at each other during practice Sunday. This was a crucial step for the Heat.
This meant that things would be back to normal. Their captain is back.

Haslem, at 41 years old, is the NBA's oldest active NBA player. He returned to practice on Sunday and joined his team for the first-time since the start of training camp almost two weeks ago. His father died while he was away, so he had not been able to attend practice.

Haslem stated, "Probably the most difficult time I've ever encountered, the greatest challenge that I have ever faced." "I can say without hesitation that my father is and will always be my best friend. After losing my mother twelve years ago, I thought I knew my father forever.

"Everything that you see on the basketball court -- all of the catchphrases and passion, the ability for people to believe in themselves, the ability to get them to follow you -- that's all my father, man. That's what he is. This is who he was.

His son, Michael, has been the Heat's guy since 2003.

Haslem is no longer a player. He appeared in only one game last season and was able to be ejected in under two minutes. He is still wanted by the Heat for his leadership qualities on the practice court as well as in the locker room. He signed a one-year contract worth $2.8 million. This is his 10th contract in a 19 year career with the Heat. There are also some people in the organization that want him back for a 20th.

Udonis haslem was unable to attend Heat practices for two weeks due to grief. The team offered their understanding as he grieved the death of his father. AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee. File

Haslem requested that his teammates not attend the funeral of his father last month to not interrupt their camp preparations. Many Heat members went, including Erik Spoelstra who was the main communicator with Haslem in his absence. Other tributes and reminders of Haslem were also made, like Adebayo removing his No. 13 jersey to sport Haslem's No. 40 in practice.

Spoelstra stated that they wanted to respect his space and communicate with him mostly through me and UD. He wasn't getting 100+ text messages per day. We are thrilled to have him back with our family. It's great news for us, and it's good for him. His presence, his spirit and his voice made our gym feel great."

Haslem's father, Johnnie Haslem, died Aug. 30 at age 70. He was a Miami Northwestern high school basketball star who went on to lead Stetson's scoring and rebounding teams as a senior in 1973-74. After college, he played at the semipro level. His son claimed that he models his game completely on his father's, even wearing No. His dad played 40.

Haslem stated, "It's going be difficult moving forward without him. But I'm prepared." "My parents raised and taught me. I've seen enough to know that I can weather any storm.

Haslem stated that he had never thought of not returning to the Heat after his father's passing. He needed some time.

Haslem stated, "I had to get to a point that I could help these men, still being a leader, still being this captain, and still be the man they expect me to become." That was the journey. It was not easy, and I still have a lot to learn. But today was a great day.