MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A few days after the Miami Heat championship parade, Juwan Howard was back in workout mode.
Just in case.
Howard said Friday that he is still deciding whether he wants to return for a 19th NBA season, although the direction he’s leaning might be indicated by his being the first player back in the Heat practice gym once the title celebrations had slowed down a bit.
“I still have the itch,” Howard said while appearing at a Heat “Learn to Swim” event for children. “I still have the passion and the love for the game. More importantly, I still like staying in shape and I can’t sit on my behind. I’m still iffy as far as if I want to come back and play or not, but I’ll tell you one thing — once I decide, I want to be ready. So I am working out … ready for whatever happens.”
Howard turns 40 next Feb. 7.
He has spent the past two seasons with the Heat, appearing in 85 regular-season and 20 playoff games, all in a reserve role. Howard is a free agent, though has indicated he would stay with the Heat if they want him back.
This season’s championship was the first pro title for Howard, part of Michigan’s famed “Fab Five” in the early 1990s. He has 16,138 career points, putting him 16th among active NBA players and 91st in league history, according to STATS LLC.
“It really hasn’t hit me,” Howard said.
He has been considered a huge asset in the Heat locker room — Dwyane Wade told teammates late in the clinching game of the NBA Finals against Oklahoma City that they needed to maintain a lead to ensure Howard got a few minutes of playing time. Plus, he’s been a mentor of sorts to just about everyone on the Heat roster.
“This is a special moment, a special time for this team,” Howard said. “I’m still smiling, every day. Walking around throughout the city, people of course are patting you on the back, they’re so proud of this past season and our accomplishments. But now it’s time for us to really look back on what has happened throughout the season, be proud of all the hard work we put into it.”