Five games ago, Udonis Haslem wasn't thinking about Dirk Nowitzki or a 2006 championship rematch.

Five games ago, Udonis Haslem couldn't have fathomed being a key component in the NBA Finals, because sitting on the bench, he didn't even feel like he was in the NBA. Not as a player, anyway. He was more of a motivational speaker in basketball shorts.

Five games ago, the coaching staff wasn't thinking about rebounds and rings. It was thinking in terms of pins and needles.

"When it came time, we were more worried about him reinjuring the foot during the Chicago series," Heat assistant coach David Fizdale said of Haslem, who missed six months with a torn ligament in his left foot. "Udonis said, 'Look, I'm ready. Don't worry about me. If I hurt the foot, I hurt the foot and I'm done.'"

Haslem is everything he's supposed to be. Five games after being reinserted into the rotation amid fears he was returning too soon, Haslem has boosted the Heat bench, fixed the team's rebounding issues and latched himself to Dirk Nowitzki's hip, refusing to let go.

Beyond the numbers

It's hard to believe that layers of rust built up from months of inactivity can dissolve in five short games, at this level of play, with a championship on the line.

That is, it's hard to believe unless you're familiar with Haslem.

As these playoffs have progressed, and as basketball metrics have evolved almost to the level of baseball's, we have marveled at the offensive production of Dwyane Wade, the late-game efficiency of LeBron James, the underrated defensive performances of Chris Bosh. We have all been told, to the exact detail, how the Heat's Big 3 is affecting games.

But even as those numbers become more advanced, more sophisticated and more telling, they can't tell the story of Haslem. Not in these past five games.