Storyline: Hassan Whiteside Injury

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The Miami Heat got back to work Tuesday morning after having two days off to welcome in the new year, and center Hassan Whiteside got back to wearing a protective brace on his troublesome left knee. The Heat’s starting center, who missed 18 games with bone bruises to the knee, took the brace off after he went to the bench with 4:36 left in the opening quarter in Saturday’s win at Orlando and played without it for the rest of the game. But coach Erik Spoelstra said Whiteside will wear the brace going forward, calling it “non-negotiable” as the team tries to protect him from further injury.

“That’s not going to happen any more or he’s not going to be out there,” Spoelstra said of Whiteside, who finished with nine points, 13 rebounds, a career-high four assists and a season-high 10 screen assists. “He had discomfort [wearing it]. We expect that – just like a guy wearing an ankle brace or taped ankle. The first few times you do it it’s uncomfortable, it’s new. But we want to protect him. He’s going to wear it. That’s non-negotiable.”

On a light day of work in the wake of Monday’s overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, a practice session held in the absence of point guard Goran Dragic, who was out ill, Spoelstra said Whiteside did 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 drill work. “He’s making progress,” Spoelstra said, with the Heat’s season-longest six-game homestand concluding Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls. “We’ll evaluate him tomorrow. I don’t have a determination on when he’ll be ready.”

Whiteside, who has been sidelined with a bone bruise on his left knee since the Heat’s Oct. 18 season-opening loss against the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center, not only was ruled out in advance of Saturday’s game against the Boston Celtics at AmericanAirlines Arena, but coach Erik Spoelstra acknowledged that Monday’s game against the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves also appears unlikely. “He’s doing more. I’m encouraged by his activity level. He’s not ready for a practice yet,” Spoelstra said after Saturday morning’s shootaround. “So we’ll check that box when he gets to that. But in terms of pain, that’s gotten a lot better. And he’s been doing more.”

The next opportunity for Whiteside to make his return will come in Monday’s home game against the Timberwolves. Whiteside’s participation, or lack thereof, in Sunday afternoon’s practice will help to show where he stands entering the fifth game of Miami’s season-long six-game homestand. “We talk, but we don’t want to force him [to play] if he’s not OK,” Dragic said of Whiteside. “He’s good every day. He’s coming early, doing treatments. He’s with the team, talking a lot. That’s the only thing he can do right now, take care of his body, try to get better. And when the doctors or Jay [Sabol] say he’s got a green light, then he’ll be back.”

It took 13 stitches to close the gash on Hassan Whiteside’s right hand Tuesday night. But it may take more than that to keep Whiteside out of Thursday’s home game against the Raptors. The Heat’s $98 million center is listed as probable to play in the finale of Miami’s five-game homestand. “It’s day-to-day,” Whiteside said Wednesday afternoon in his first interview since suffering the injury. “But I’m going there with the intention to play tomorrow. I’m going to go out there, see how it feels.”

Hassan Whiteside now has more rebounds in a season than any player in Miami Heat history. Now Miami needs him to rebound from another hand injury. Whiteside had 23 points and 14 rebounds before leaving late in obvious pain and with blood on his right hand, and the Heat beat the Phoenix Suns 112-97 on Tuesday night. He was getting stitches postgame to repair a cut between his middle and ring fingers, and the team said he will be evaluated again on Wednesday. Whiteside had a similar injury – same place, same hand – late in the 2014-15 season and missed three games.

That knee was already tenuous after he strained it slipping on a wet spot in Game 1, and Whiteside was unable to walk on it. He tried to get to the sideline and dropped to the floor again, then needed help getting to the locker room. He was out of the game and could be out of this series, though the Heat won’t say anything about his status until he undergoes an MRI on Sunday. Whiteside said he has never felt pain like that in his knee and described it as his leg “going two different ways.” He was struggling through the strain as it was and managed six points, no rebounds and no blocked shots in eight minutes before exiting.
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February 24, 2018 | 10:01 pm EST Update