Hassan Whiteside posts 14-point, 13-rebound, 12-block triple-double in Heat win over Bulls (VIDEO)

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CHICAGO — The Bulls had no answer for Hassan Whiteside. In just 24 minutes on the floor, the Miami Heat center was a terror in the paint, putting up a career night with 14 points, 13 rebounds and a Heat franchise record 12 blocks.

The Bulls’ formidable frontline was terrified to even go at him, and when they did, he made them pay. Pau Gasol’s 13 points came on 6-for-16 shooting. Joakim Noah shot 1-for-5. Taj Gibson shot 3-for-10. When Whiteside was in the game, the Bulls couldn’t get anything going offensively.

“That’s what the team needs,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “It gives us a very different dimension. It’s a credit to him for continuing to work hard and match it with his talent.”

Whiteside’s out-of-nowhere success story has been the highlight of an up-and-down season for the Heat in their first year without LeBron James. A former second-round pick of the Sacramento Kings, Whiteside bounced around overseas and in the D-League, a tremendously talented big man with questions about his attitude that scared most teams off.

“I told my teammates, you wouldn’t believe how things work out in life,” Whiteside said. Three months ago, you can ask anybody at the downtown [YMCA] in Charlotte, I was there just chilling. Just working on my game. I couldn’t even get a team to pick up the phone.”

Every other team in the NBA is now kicking themselves for missing out on Whiteside, but his success was in no way a sure thing. If anybody had a clue he would be this good, he would have been a lottery pick in 2010. Hasheem Thabeet was a No. 2 pick in 2009 just because he was tall. Whiteside needed to go on the journey he went on to become the player he is. That meant being humbled after coming into the NBA thinking he was the best player on the floor. He had to go back to basics, embrace defense and rebounding and wait for the right opportunity. Now that he’s gotten it, he’s taking advantage of it. He’s used to being forgotten.

“In high school, it was, ‘Where’d he come from?'” Whiteside said. “Five years ago, if anybody followed my Marshall career, I did one year there. I didn’t even start until later on in the season, and by the end of the season, I was projected as a lottery pick. It’s been like that all my life. It’s always, ‘Where’d he come from?'”

One thing is for sure: Whiteside is going to get himself paid over the summer. Seven-footers are always highly coveted in the NBA, and he’s proven himself to be a diamond in the rough. For now, though, he’s found a home in Miami.

“I told Spo, I wanted to be the anchor for the team,” he said. “So when I got here, they gave me the chance when nobody else would.”

 

Knicks’ Obi Toppin out at least 2-3 weeks with knee fracture

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Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.

However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.

Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.

Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.

Report: Zach LaVine not available for trade from Bulls

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Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.

Dejounte Murray added to growing Hawks injury report, out 2-3 weeks with sprained ankle

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John Collins is out for at least another week with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Hunter has been out with a strained hip flexor.

Now you can add Dejounte Murray to the Hawks’ growing injury report, he is out at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained ankle, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

The injury happened on a closeout from RJ Barrett of the Knicks.

The Hawks have already had chemistry and fit issues this season, and missing key players for an extended period only exacerbates the problem. Atlanta looked flat getting their doors blown off by the Knicks Wednesday night, 113-89, a game that added to a string where they have lost 5-of-7. Now they will have to find a way to right the ship without their second-best playmaker.

There also is an update on the Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.

NBA, WNBA players react to news Brittney Griner coming home

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Brittney Griner is finally coming home.

The WNBA and USA Basketball star has spent 10 months in Russian prisons — including being convicted and sent to a Russian penal colony — for having vape canisters with small amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage as she went through Russian airport security back in February. She became a political pawn in the tensions between the United States and Russia, mostly surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and was freed via a prisoner swap announced Thursday.

The basketball world — WNBA players in particular — had worked to keep her name front and not let Griner be forgotten during this ordeal, pushing President Joe Biden and the government to reach a deal. With the news Griner was freed, NBA and WNBA players took to social media to react.

“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”

“We are overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our sister Brittney Griner is finally coming home,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Her strength and courage throughout this last year have been truly remarkable, as have the efforts of her wife Cherelle, our WNBPA sisters, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, who have been relentless in their call to bring Brittney home. We know this homecoming would not have been possible without their unwavering support and continued work to keep BG always top of mind, and our players are honored to have contributed to those efforts. While this is a celebratory moment for our sisters and us, we must not forget the other political prisoners who remain in dire circumstances all over the world. These individuals must be remembered and fought for every single day as BG was so that they too can have this moment. Welcome home Brittney, we are so happy to have you back! #WeAreBG”