Goran Dragic on Udonis Haslem continued: "A lot of guys…

Goran Dragic on Udonis Haslem continued: “A lot of guys in this locker room need leadership like UD, especially Hassan [Whiteside]. I think UD can provide that. He’s there where usually some guys would not be, in the toughest moments, when you need something, he’s there. That’s why everybody loves him. I played with a lot of veteran guys who had successful careers — like UD, Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Amare Stoudemire — [and Haslem] is number one in my books as a player and a leader and a friend.”
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In China, he was unable to communicate, and therefore out of his element. A player from another team taught Whiteside how to greet: “Wǒ shì nǐ bàba”—hi, nice to meet you. He said it to everyone at home, on the road, in the gym. There were never any “you, too’s” in return, only blank stares. Well into the season, Whiteside found out from his team’s general manager that he was actually saying “I’m your daddy.” Whiteside immediately recognized the player in the layup line a year later, after he had left for Lebanon again, then returned back to China. He wishes he had dunked on him. Wǒ shì nǐ bàba.
That progress stalled in the 2017-18 season. And it felt impossible to get in gear from the sidelines. “Especially,” Whiteside says, “when you can see a game and you know you can help.” We’re settled inside now, sitting in leather chairs made for 7-footers. Last season’s body language experts would be picking him apart: slumped shoulders, looking in the distance as he’s talking. “Maybe our record would have been different. We would have been a whole different seed in the playoffs.” He knows he was sluggish after missing so much time—28 games total, nine in March. Less agile, slower, and trying to catch up on Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra’s schemes. I ask if he feared being forgotten again. “I can avoid that,” he says. Avoid what? “Falling back to people not knowing.”
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