Storyline: Hassan Whiteside Injury

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“No, there’s not that kind of caution,” he said of having his players healthy for the playoffs, which open April 14. “There’s only health caution. We’re not going to bring them back until they’re ready to come back. We can’t look at it as other teams are looking at it, ‘That we’re going to make sure we’re ready for the postseason.’ That is not how it’s going to be for us — it’s go time. And both of those guys know that. They’ve been very committed and diligent behind the scenes to working. But we have to do it smart, intelligently.”

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.”
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March 22, 2019 | 4:37 am EDT Update
Now that Russell is getting some good pub — the narratives flipping from lottery bust to Magic Johnson gave up on him too quickly — he won’t let it distract him. “I’ve been on the worst side of the tilt,” Russell said after Thursday’s practice at Santa Monica High School. “So to now to be on this side where we’re having a little success, I’ve seen both narratives. I’ve seen every narrative you could throw. When it comes to preparing myself for them, I’ve looked in the mirror and I’ve put myself in the situation before [the media] could.”