51 Q: Can Hassan Whiteside repeat last year’s out-of-nowhere success?

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Hassan Whiteside‘s rise last season was almost unprecedented. Given the basketball world’s collective obsession with athletic big men, it said a lot that Whiteside had completely flamed out of the NBA for several years by the time the Heat picked him up. He wasn’t even on the league’s collective radar after spending several years overseas — and then, seemingly overnight, he had turned into a double-double machine, saving Miami’s season.

It wasn’t enough: once Chris Bosh‘s blood clots were discovered and he was sidelined for the year, Miami’s playoff hopes were effectively dashed. The much-hyped post-trade deadline lineup of Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Bosh and Whiteside never got to play together. The idea is that this year, they will, and on paper, this Heat team is one of the few in the east with enough talent and depth to seriously challenge Cleveland and make a deep playoff run. But a big part of that potential is the notion that Whiteside’s success is sustainable, that the paint monster he was in the 48 games he played last year is the player he is, full-stop.

Theoretically, he has a great skillset to compliment Bosh in the frontcourt. His ability to finish at the rim will give Bosh plenty of space to play around the perimeter, which is where he’s most comfortable. It’s a good fit, and when everybody’s healthy, Miami should be very effective on the offensive end. On defense, he’s a shot-blocking machine, but has a tendency to get into foul trouble. Whiteside will be highly motivated to keep his more erratic tendencies in check this year, since he’s due for a major payday next summer if he has another good year.

But Whiteside hasn’t started training camp healthy. He’s been out with a calf strain during preseason, which isn’t a great sign. Questions about his attitude have also never entirely dissipated despite his success last year in Miami — Whiteside had a couple of incidents last season where he was ejected for excessive hard fouls, which prompted Wade to call him out publicly. Even if he’s healthy, there’s plenty of reason to expect that there’s at least a small regression coming.

Still, if Whiteside is even close to what he was last year, the Heat will be extremely dangerous. His combination of size and athleticism make him a game-changer, and he fits well with the Heat’s other starters. It’s far from a sure thing that he’ll continue to produce the way he did last season, but he’s too talented for there not to be a good chance he’ll continue at something resembling that level, at least enough to make the Heat a contender in the East.

NBA Players’ union appeals both of Dion Waiters’ suspensions for conduct this season

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Dion Waiters was suspended the first game of the season for the Heat for “conduct detrimental to the team” following a clash with coaches and management.

Waiters got another 10-game suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team” right after — but not officially related to — his panic attack on the team plane following his apparent overdose on THC-laced “gummies.”

The NBA players’ union is appealing both suspensions, reports Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

This is all about the money Waiters did not get from his salary after being suspended without pay, an estimated $913,000 total. However, it does not include the $1.2 million bonus owed if he played in 70 games, a figure he could no longer reach after the 10-game suspension (Waiters has yet to step on the court for the Heat this season).

The suspension is up Dec. 1 and Waiters can return to the Heat roster then. This case will take longer to work its way through the appeals process than that, this is just about Waiters getting paid.

 

Paul George says he knew James Harden/Russell Westbrook pairing would work

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When James Harden and Russell Westbrook share the court this season, the Rockets are +8.9 points per 100 possessions. That is fueled by a surprisingly good defensive rating that has them giving almost exactly a point per possession.

All of that is much better than many pundits predicted, as they questioned how to isolation players with questionable defensive chops would fit together.

Not Paul George. He thought this would work from the start, as he told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“I knew it was going to work,” George said at the morning shootaround before the Clippers face the Rockets on Friday night. “Russ is a winner. Russ wants to win, Russ does whatever it takes to win. My time playing with him, Russ doesn’t really have an ego. He puts his ego to the side.

“He allowed me to be myself, he allowed me to be comfortable. And I had one of the best career [years] I had while playing alongside him. Russ is a heckuva teammate.”

James Harden — averaging 38.4 points, 7.5 assists, and 5.8 rebounds a game — would likely agree with George.

George, however, surveyed the situation with Westbrook and OKC — after Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers knocked them out in the first round — and decided to move on and team up with Kawhi Leonard with the Lakers. He may have liked Westbrook as a teammate, but the two of them (with that talent around them and few ways to make real upgrades) had limits on how far they could go.

That remains the question about these Rockets, one that is not going to be answered until next April at the earliest.

Report: Hornets interested in Pistons center Andre Drummond

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Andre Drummond is thriving.

The Pistons are not.

With Drummond headed toward free agency, that leaves major questions for Detroit. Should the 4-10 Pistons hope better health – especially for Blake Griffin – allows them to get back on track this season? Should they keep Drummond and attempt to re-sign him as a key player future seasons? Should they trade him to get value now?

Drummond’s market – both for a trade or in free agency – is somewhat limited. The NBA is overstocked with capable centers. His game, built mostly on rebounding, trends toward old-school. Drummond is better than most players of his ilk. The question is about cost.

But at least one team outside Detroit is apparently interested – Charlotte.

Sean Deveney of Heavy:

The target, according to league sources: Pistons big man Andre Drummond, a player in whom the Hornets have had an interest for at least a year.

Charlotte projects to have about $27 million in cap space next summer. That might be enough to lure Drummond with a multi-year deal.

But Drummond’s player option for next season he said he plans to decline is worth $28,751,774.

So, it might make sense to trade for Drummond now to secure his Bird Rights. That way, the Hornets could exceed the cap to re-sign him.

They’d also get an upgrade at center over Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo this season. Charlotte (6-9) is in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Even with Drummond, I wouldn’t pick the Hornets as likely to make the postseason, but that’s the type of low-level goal they often prioritize.

Charlotte has expiring contracts to facilitate a trade – Biyombo, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The Hornets would also have to surrender assets that tempt Detroit (draft picks and/or young players).

There’s a path to a satisfactory trade… if the Pistons are open to dealing Drummond.

Harassment charges against Lakers’ DeMarcus Cousins reportedly dropped

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DeMarcus Cousins got married this past summer, but his 7-year-old son didn’t attend the wedding due to a dispute with the boy’s mother and Cousin’s ex-girlfriend, Christy West. That blew up into an ugly situation where Cousins was ultimately charged in Alabama with a third-degree harassing communications misdemeanor, tied to the domestic situation.

Now, those charges have been dismissed, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Cousins remains out for the Lakers after tearing his ACL this past summer, and he is not expected to return. Because of the surprisingly good play of Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee — particularly as mobile defenders who can show out on the perimeter and recover — the Lakers have not missed Cousins’ presence.

I have no specific knowledge of this case or the truth of what happened between Cousins and his ex. As far as I know, there was nothing to this and should have been dismissed.

However, as someone who spent a chunk of years on a police/courts beat as a young reporter, I feel the need to add this: Domestic violence/harassment cases are exceedingly difficult to prosecute. It can be a he said/she said situation, and unfortunately, often the abused women recant their testimony (whether it was true or not). The situations are a complex mix of emotions and fear, ones that make getting justice difficult. Talk to any prosecutor (or long-time police beat officer) about domestic violence cases and they will tell you horrifying stories. It is a situation that, as a nation, we need to address.