Hassan Whiteside was a non-factor during the Miami Heat’s Monday night’s loss to the Golden State Warriors. However, deciding not to play one of the NBA’s best interior defenders wasn’t a strategic decision by head coach Erik Spoelstra.
On a night when Miami was playing shorthanded due to Dion Waiters’ absence, the Heat needed maximum effort from their core starters. Whiteside responded with three points on 1-of-9 shooting and six rebounds.
Whiteside looked disengaged mentally from the jump, and was quickly rendered ineffective. He barely touched the floor during the second half, getting pulled after allowing Zaza Pachulia to score on an uncontested layup while he argued a call with an official. Whiteside’s effort was reportedly questionable enough for the Miami Heat’s team captains (of whom Whiteside is not one) to address him after the game.
For his part, the cantankerous Whiteside deflected when asked about his benching and the private counseling that veteran teammates gave him in the locker room, according to the Miami Herald:
“Coach, playing me 16 minutes, I guess that’s what he wanted me to play. … Last game, I played 31 minutes. I thought I played great [Sunday versus the Clippers]. Today, I played 16 minutes. So I really don’t know what I’m going to play [Wednesday] in Phoenix.”
“Sometimes you just don’t have it. And he admitted, ‘Hey guys, I let you down,’ ” point guard Goran Dragic said. “Look, we’re here to help him. He’s our team. He’s our player. We love him and this is the only thing that matters.”
Johnson was a little more blunt in sharing his feelings on Whiteside’s lack of focus:
“Minutes is earned, man. Minutes is earned on this team,” co-captain James Johnson said. “We had our talk [with Whiteside] as we should as a team and as the three captains that we are. And he gets it, man. I know he gets it.
“He’s the most athletic guy I know. He’s the heart of our team and he’s also the best big man in the league to me. I don’t care what nobody says. That’s just my opinion.”
Haslem, a player whose career has been all about effort, played down the conversation as best he could:
“We’re not disappointed, man,” Haslem said. “It’s not supposed to be easy. None of this is supposed to be easy, man. If you want to be a champion in this league, it’s not going to be easy. So everybody’s path is different. Hassan is still growing, you know what I’m saying. He’s still learning, he’s still growing, he’s still understanding what we expect from him. Every night you’re not going to have it in this league. So what we just need from Hassan is his energy. We feed off that and he’s our best player. We’re going to live and die with him. We’re going to ride with him, we’re going to stick behind him and we’re going to encourage him. We expect him to do the same for us.”
Whiteside’s attitude has gotten the best of him before, but every time he seems to have grown out of his immature stage, he relapses, leaving teammates, coaches and fans pulling out thick clumps of their hair. When he isn’t being taken out for a lack of effort, Whiteside has a penchant for getting himself bounced from contests.
Two seasons ago, Whiteside was sent home after purposely swinging an elbow at Boban Marjanovic while jockeying for a rebound and drew the ire of Dwyane Wade. The Heat sound like they’ve put this episode behind them. Ultimately, though, words mean nothing. Whiteside’s professionalism is back under scrutiny, and will likely remain there until he proves it shouldn’t be.