When the Miami Heat went on a 16-7 run against Utah to close out the game Sunday and win by a point, Hassan Whiteside had a courtside seat for it all.
The highest paid player on Miami’s roster sat while Kelly Olynyk played the five in crunch time. This has been a pattern since Whiteside’s return from a knee injury — Whiteside starts, gets minutes into the low 20s, but doesn’t usually close out the game. In six games since his return, Whiteside has averaged 11.5 points per game on 48.3 percent shooting, plus is grabbing 8.3 and has 1.3 blocks a night. When Whiteside is on and focused he is a very dangerous player, but that guy doesn’t show up game-to-game or even possession-to-possession.
Whiteside said all the right things about how the team is winning and that what matters, but he also told Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald he wants more run.
“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.”
Heat coach Eric Spoelstra was up front in a response — he needs more from the center.
“It’s both ends,” Spoelstra replied when asked if there’s a specific area where he wants Whiteside to improve. “He’ll get there. Some things he’s doing better. As he does it more consistently, harder and with a better motor and attention to detail, he’ll earn more minutes.”
Whiteside gets frustrated at times he is not mentioned in the same breath as the best centers in the game right now. Consistency, playing with a consistently high motor, is the step that might get him in that conversation.