Miami Heat Captains Had Talk With Hassan Whiteside After Latest Benching

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It was Erik Spoelstra‘s decision to sit center Hassan Whiteside on the bench in Monday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors, but the nine-year head coach deferred to the Miami Heat‘s team captains to help both the star big man and the press understand why.

Following the loss, Whiteside was visibly perturbed by his coach’s decision, even telling reporters that he did not know how much he could expect to play in the Heat’s upcoming game against the Phoenix Suns.

“I guess he thought it was better if I didn’t come back in,” Whiteside responded when asked after the game whether he asked Spoelstra to let him back on the court. “Coach, playing me 16 minutes, I guess that’s what he wanted me to play. … Last game, I played 31 minutes. I thought I played great [Sunday versus the Clippers]. Today, I played 16 minutes. So I really don’t know what I’m going to play [Wednesday] in Phoenix.”

When Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald spoke with Goran Dragic, James Johnson, and Udonis Haslem, all three veterans made it clear that while Whiteside needs to learn from his poor performance on Monday, it does not change just how crucial he is to the Heat’s success.

“Minutes is earned, man. Minutes is earned on this team,” Johnson said. “We had our talk [with Whiteside] as we should as a team and as the three captains that we are. And he gets it, man. I know he gets it.”

Whiteside was sent to bench for good early in the third quarter of Monday’s game with a stat line of just three points and six rebounds. Dragic affirmed, however, that his poor play and subsequent benching does not represent how the team feels about Whiteside.

“Sometimes you just don’t have it. And he admitted, ‘Hey guys, I let you down,'” Dragic said. “Look, we’re here to help him. He’s on on our team. He’s our player. We love him and this is the only thing that matters.”

Haslem also chimed in, saying the whole team knows that Whiteside is still growing as a player in the NBA.

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“We’re not disappointed, man,” he said. “It’s not supposed to be easy. None of this is supposed to be easy, man. If you want to be a champion in this league, it’s not going to be easy. So everybody’s path is different. Hassan is still growing. He’s still learning, he’s still growing, he’s still understanding what we expect from him.”

Furthermore, Dragic and Haslem both voiced their support for Whiteside, arguing that sometimes a back-to-back game proves too much for a player, especially when that player has the responsibilities that the Heat have thrusted on the 7-footer.

“I mean it’s tough. He’s our main player,” Dragic said. “He’s protecting the paint. He’s getting offensive rebounds, blocked shots. But, we’re going to play with whoever we’ve got. I think Bam (Adebayo) did an amazing job. He brought that energy that we needed. It’s tough. But you have so many games in this league and sometimes back-to-backs, sometimes your body doesn’t listen to you. But we have full confidence Hassan is going to be back and he’s going to be his old self again.”

Haslem used his experience in the NBA to preach mental fortitude in the face of physical demands.

“On the second night of a back-to-back, man, sometimes your body is not going to have it,” the 15-year veteran said. “That’s when you got to have it with your mind. I preach to these guys 48 minutes of mentally stable basketball and not be mental midgets. That’s just something we got to continue to work on. We’re probably in a different situation if every game we didn’t have those four or five-minute lapses where mentally we’re just out of it. And then we get it back and we’re just fighting, fighting, fighting. So like I said, from the first guy on the bench to the last guy on the bench, we just got to make sure we stay mentally stable and into it for 48 minutes. It doesn’t mean you’re going to play perfect basketball, but we have to have it up top for 48 minutes.”

Whiteside struggled on Monday night and has already missed time to due an early-season injury. Still, the big man is averaging an impressive 15.2 points and 12.4 rebounds in the five games he has played in. If he can continue building on that stat line and make sure to turn Monday’s benching into a learning experience, Whiteside could be everything the Heat had hoped for and more.
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Jonathan is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and passionate fan of the NBA. In the past Jonathan has covered politics, entertainment, travel, and more. He is a proud contributor of Heat Nation.