The seemingly inexplicable regarding the Miami Dolphins is easily explainable for Miami Heat captain Udonis Haslem.
As a lifelong fan, he appreciates the roller coaster from 8-3 start to 8-8 record and Sunday’s must-win game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium for any chance of making the playoffs.
But as a professional athlete in his 20th season, he also recognizes the great equalizer and fundamental realities.
“I know the feeling — injuries,” Haslem said ahead of Friday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns, the last on the Heat’s five-game trip. “I know what injuries can do to a team. Obviously, we’re going through it now.
“So when you’re not at your best strength, it’s hard to be the best version of yourself as a team, collectively. So I know that feeling, it’s tough.”
In his younger days, Haslem said he, too, would have questioned how something so uplifting could so quickly turn south. Twenty years later, including major injuries of his own at some of the worst possible times, he knows.
“Nah, I know sports. I know sports and I know how easily the tables can turn when you have injuries,” he said, the Heat with their own issues with three players sidelined for at least a month — Duncan Robinson (finger), Nikola Jovic (back) and Omer Yurtseven (ankle).
Still the Heat’s current state is nothing quite like the Dolphins’ injury desperation.
With that, Haslem made his fandom apparent, rattling off the names of ailing Dolphins such as Tua Tagovailoa, Byron Jones and Bradley Chubb.
“I’ve been watching them battle injuries all year, with Tua going in and out, their All-Pro safety getting hurt, Chubb getting hurt,” Haslem said, with the timing of the Heat’s 6 p.m. home game against at the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday affording at least some time to first catch Dolphins-Jets on the FTX Arena televisions. “There’s just been a lot of injuries.
“So you can put together a good team. But if guys aren’t available, if you don’t have healthy bodies, and especially from your key guys that you need, it’s going to be tough to get any consistency.”
Which, to a degree, also has been the story of this uneven Miami Heat season.
“So I, for one, have compassion for being in a situation like that,” Haslem, 42, said, having moved past his offseason ire of the Dolphins parting with former coach Brian Flories. “Because we’ve been dealing with that right now, trying to get some consistency with guys being in and out of your lineup.”
Haslem’s appreciation for the inherent risks of football, with his oldest son playing collegiately, is such that his first question after Monday night’s victory over the Los Angeles Clippers was about the state of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin.
Among the aspects of the Dolphins’ twists and turns that Haslem said was most disappointing was fellow South Florida product Teddy Bridgewater twice having his opportunities to step in as backup quarterback sidetracked this season, sidelined once by concussion protocol and now this latest finger injury suffered in last week’s costly loss to the New England Patriots.
“Teddy, a Miami guy. That sucks,” Haslem said, with Bridgewater, 30, a product of the program at Miami’s Northwestern High School. “I was excited for him to get the opportunity. And last time I was excited for him to get an opportunity, he got a concussion.
“So I’m rooting for the hometown kid, but also understanding how physical that game is.”