After Juwan Howard's second 10-day contract expired last night, the Miami Heat decided to officially welcome the 18-year veteran back to the team for the remainder of the season.
Howard recently celebrated his 40th birthday and has yet to appear in any of his twelve games with the Heat so far this season; raising some questions as to why he was offered the last available position on the roster. Why would the Heat choose to use a potentially important roster spot on someone who hasn't even stepped foot on the court all season? The reason is clear if you take a look at the statement released by the Miami Heat's President Pat Riley, just after signing Howard to his first 10-day contract.
"Juwan is a key part of the Championship culture here in Miami," Riley said. "He is essential to this team and can still play this game at a high level in some of our biggest games yet to come. He has a unique veteran savvy and will provide leadership and experience to our team."
Pat Riley isn't the only advocate for keeping Howard around, with coach Erik Spoelstra also in agreement. Spoelstra told Ethan J. Skolnick of The Palm Beach Post, that Juwan "absolutely fits into the fabric of our culture," Spoelstra said. "To be honest, it felt a little bit strange not having him with us. It makes sense, it feels right."
Howard acts as a mentor for the entire Miami Heat squad, providing knowledge and advice for the younger members of the team whether it be on the court, at practice or in the locker room. Players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade often rave about how much they look up to Juwan and how much they love having him around. It only takes a brief look into his basketball past before we begin to understand why.
Re-signing with the Miami Heat means that Juwan Howard is now entering his 19th NBA season. Howard was drafted 5th overall in 1994 and has appeared in 1,201 career games: including 85 over his past two seasons with the Miami Heat. Before entering the NBA, Howard was a part of the college basketball sensation known today as the Fab Five. The Fab Five is the name given to the University of Michigan's 1991 recruitment class, which is still considered by many to be the best recruitment class of all time. Juwan was the first of the Fab Five to earn an NBA Championship and is the last member of the group remaining active in the NBA.
All these years of basketball experience make Juwan the most knowledgeable asset on the team. Combine that experience with his constant positivity, helpful attitude, and eminent leadership skills, and you have the ultimate mentor. Though Howard is still fully capable of hitting those jumpers from 17 feet out, and playing rock-solid defense, it's more about what he provides off-court that makes him a vital part of this team's success.