Barry Jackson: Riley, asked about Whiteside/Spo relationship: “There has been to be an intervention. I am going to be the interveener… There’s no doubt he was in a bad state in the playoffs. I’m not going to give him any kind of excuse [but] the season started with an injury.”
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Barry Jackson: Riley, on Spoelstra playing Whiteside limited minutes in postseason: “I would have taken him out of the game, too, the way he was performing.”
Heat center Hassan Whiteside suggested a change in Miami’s offensive approach has affected his production in the playoffs. “It’s just different, man. I feel like our offense is a lot different. I’m not as involved in as many dribble handoffs as I was and post-ups as I was in the regular season,” Whiteside said after scoring five points in 13 minutes in Miami’s Game 3 loss to Philadelphia. “That’s what coach [Erik Spoelstra] wants. Coach wants me to just be in the corner and set picks. That’s what he wants. I’ve just got to trust it.”
“I want to get more rebounds out there. I want to get more minutes out there. I’m just going to keep trusting coach’s decision-making,” Whiteside said. “Even with the fouls, I still could have been out there. I wouldn’t have fouled out. I am going to keep trusting coach’s decision-making.”
TNT’s Shaquille O’Neal, who has spent a bit of time with Hassan Whiteside during the past two years, has some advice about how Whiteside should handle his frustration about sometimes not playing late in games. “Sometimes as a player you have to understand strategy,” O’Neal said. “Yes Whiteside is a big man; he’s a fabulous big man. But he’s not the traditional big man which you call the term five.”
Shaquille O’Neal: “But he needs to understand strategy. If I was him, I would say OK I’m going to [let] coach do what he do, but I’m going to get a rest. Because playoff time when the game slows down, they’re going to need you, big man. Don’t let all that stuff [bother you]. I know as a player we want to play all the games. But I didn’t win championships until I had 15, 20 games off.”
A day after he was fined an undisclosed amount for his expletive-filled rant in which he complained about diminished playing time this season, Hassan Whiteside said he regretted the way he handled the situation and blamed frustration for his outburst.
“I was just frustrated, man. I was frustrated that we lost. I really wanted to get that game,” Whiteside, the team’s highest-paid player, said as a Heat media relations staffer stood by his side Monday after practice inside AmericanAirlines Arena. “I could have handled it different,” he continued. “But I got so caught up in wanting to get that win. I get real competitive. I really want to be out there. But I just trust coach’s decision.”
As for his future beyond this season, Whiteside said Monday “nobody ever knows their future.” But he said he still feels like a good fit in Miami. “There’s nothing guaranteed except death,” said Whiteside, who is averaging 14.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. “… It’s a business at the end of the day. Right now, I definitely would like to be here. But the Heat make all the decisions.”
Manny Navarro: Spo says Whiteside used “poor judgement, poor timing” with comments. “We’re here to help Hassan be a better leader, better professional.”
“Man, it’s annoying,” said Whiteside, who was pulled for good with 3:55 to play in the third quarter. “Why we matching up? We got one of the best centers in the league. Why we matching up? A lot of teams don’t have a good center. They’re going to use their strength. “It’s bull—. It’s really bull—, man,” Whiteside said. “There’s a lot of teams that could use a center. S—. That’s bull—.”
Asked if he thought it was time to talk to the coaching staff, Heat President Pat Riley or General Manager Andy Elisburg, Whiteside said, “No. I don’t know if it is because of a minutes restriction or what. The minutes have been like that all year. It’s just really frustrating and it’s been frustrating. “It’s tough. I don’t know man, it’s crazy. I don’t understand it.” Asked if it has him questioning his future with the team, he said. “I don’t know, maybe.” Asked who he might take the issue up with, he said, “I don’t know.”
With Hassan Whiteside not getting the minutes he believed he deserved, and the Heat dissatisfied at times with the uneven effort, it was clear — as recently as two weeks ago — that something needed to change with the Whiteside/Heat dynamic. Since the All-Star break, three things have changed for the better — one for everyone to see and two behind the scenes. What’s visible to everyone is that the Whiteside on display in three games since the break has been generally what the Heat wants — a fully engaged player displaying effort, passion and alertness on defense, along with the usual volume rebounding and blocks.
But here’s what happened behind the scenes: Whiteside said he met with Erik Spoelstra “right after the All-Star” break and Spoelstra showed an increased willingness to let him play through mistakes, which Whiteside very much appreciates. The upshot has been an increase in minutes… Whiteside has been on the court for meaningful fourth-quarter moments in both games. “Our communication, me and Spo, is better,” Whiteside told me Wednesday. “When I make a mistake, he’s not yanking me as fast. He’s letting me play through mistakes rather than taking me out so early.”
Spoelstra smiled Wednesday when asked how often he has had to tell Whiteside it’s not about the numbers. “It’s never about the boxscore,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t want him to ever get confused about that. I know it’s easy to in today’s day and age. But it’s about his activity level, his energy. His ability to sustain both those things and his commitment to make winning plays. And he’s been very good since the break.”
Spoelstra recently has shown an inclination to playing Whiteside and Adebayo together more, with both players embracing that lineup. Does that pairing need to work long term in order for there to be enough minutes for both talents? “It would definitely be helpful, because I would definitely play more minutes,” Whiteside said. “We’ve just got to decide. I think it could definitely work.”
Asked if he could have played more in his return from illness, Whiteside said: “Uh, I can always play that many minutes. But coach went with the team that he wanted to get the win with and it’s coach’s decision. I can’t do nothing about that.” Asked if he thought he would have played more with Olynyk out, Whiteside said: “Maybe. Maybe. I mean, how long I know Spo? About four years. So I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t know. It’s hard to predict. It’s hard to predict. It’s hard to gauge now a days.”
The performance after what Whiteside said was an hour-long meeting Sunday with Spoelstra. “It was good, man,” Whiteside said. “You know me and Coach Spo talked. We talked for a really long time. It was like an hour talk. I think it was great, man. It was a really good talk between us and we both came better out of it.”
Hassan Whiteside’s nifty numbers were splendid, of course – the season highs in points (27) and blocks (six) to go with 13 rebounds. But you know what was more satisfying for Whiteside? The fact Erik Spoelstra allowed him to play late with the game on the line, and that Whiteside delivered. “I’m just glad coach allowed me to play  minutes,” Whiteside said. “He left me out there, he really trusted me tonight. I’m just really happy about that.”
Erik Spoelstra was effusive afterward, saying “Hassan Whiteside was the player of the game for us obviously…. He was a monster tonight and you could see it from his very first block. You could see it from his very first over the top rebound, you could see it from his very first drive that he was playing with a different aggressiveness. He knows what I’m going to say. I’m going to say, ‘Hey, great job Big Fella. Do it againon Friday.’”
Otherwise, he played 2:44 of the final quarter in one game and between five and six minutes in three others. “It’s whatever Coach Spo wants,” Whiteside said about coach Erik Spoelstra. “That’s what Coach Spo wants to do, that’s the lineup he wants to go with. … he thinks is going to get us the win. I can’t do nothing about it.”
“I definitely feel comfortable (guarding players on the perimeter),” Whiteside said. “I didn’t have to guard any shooting bigs. They put Robin Lopez in every time I came in, I guess for boxing out. So I don’t have no problem with it, but it’s up to Coach Spo.” Spoelstra was asked about his approach with Whiteside in the fourth quarter “It goes however it goes,” he said. “We didn’t get the job done. That’s the bottom line. We were in a hole. At that point, you got to make whatever decisions you can make to try to get back into the game. It looked like we were getting it back. We got it to six and then they made bigger plays down the stretch.”
Whiteside has averaged only 22.1 minutes per contest – and played no more than 29 in a game – since his return the day after Christmas. His diminished role, especially in the fourth quarter and overtime (where he’s played only 15 of a possible 72 minutes), has bothered him. But he’s swallowed his frustrations in part because the Heat has gone 5-1 since he’s been back. “As along as we’re winning,” the 7-footer responded Tuesday at shootaround when asked what his approach will be moving forward if he continues to sit on the bench in crunch time. “You know, we won. So as a player, of course you want to be out there. But we won the game, so I can’t really be mad at that. That’s what you’re out there to do anyway. You’re out there getting all them rebounds and blocks to win a game. So every point counts. We won by one point. Everybody’s points count.”
“You always want to play,” he said. “As a player, I don’t want to come out. If you ask me, I want to play 48 minutes. So that’s a tough question. But coach sees different things. Maybe he sees different things on the court. Sometimes it’s tough to take those guys out, too, because you got to take somebody off the court. And them guys were playing well.”
Spoelstra said he’s made it very clear to Whiteside what he has to do if he wants more minutes. He has to reach Spoelstra’s level of expectations.
Spoelstra then brought up LeBron James as an example of a player who has flourished while carrying that burden. “Yes, he can put up 20 and 15 like few I’ve ever seen,” Spoelstra said of Whiteside. “And if that’s not enough to get a win then there has to be more. There has to be more. That’s the responsibility all the great players in the history of this game have shouldered.”
Erik Spoelstra made it unmistakably clear he was furious with Whiteside, and his post-game comments suggested the Heat will not protest his Flagrant 2 (and automatic one-game suspension) with the NBA. “That’s something we’ll deal with with Hassan,” Spoelstra said. “We don’t condone that kind of play. We’ve been through this with him before. It’s a disappointing play. That’s not a basketball play.”
He added that they had minimal conversation about the play afterward. Spoelstra double checked at the scorer’s table that it was a Flagrant 2 and ordered Whiteside to the locker room. The Heat sent him home before post-game media access, so he did not answer questions about the altercation.
Ira Winderman: And from Hassan Whiteside on Erik Spoelstra, “I don’t know what our relationship is. Oh, we’re fine.”
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May 27, 2018 | 11:15 pm EDT Update
Brian Windhorst: LeBron James has won 6 straight Game 7s. He’s won a road game in 32 of last 33 series. He will play in his 9th Finals. This is perhaps the greatest Eastern Conference win of his career.