Hassan Whiteside was likely licking his chops in anticipation of a matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, who might offer the shallowest center rotation in the NBA.
Brooklyn starts impressive rookie Jarrett Allen in the middle, but he’s 19 years old and not yet muscled enough to deal with behemoths like Whiteside and Dwight Howard — who recently grabbed a bonkers 30 rebounds in a win over the Nets — full-time. After that, the Nets rotate a trio of guys, who all entered the league as small forwards, as perimeter-oriented centers: Dante Cunningham, Quincy Acy, and, in hypersmall lineups, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Timofey Mozgov and Jahlil Okafor, also on the roster, almost never see the court).
And, because Whiteside’s perimeter defense resembles that of a fire hydrant (albeit with well-defined shoulders), Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra deployed Whiteside for just 20 minutes in the team’s 110-109 overtime loss to Brooklyn on Saturday. He didn’t even see the floor in the fourth quarter or overtime, which irked him to the point of suggesting he might not be on the team next year.
From the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson:
Asked how tough it is to watch from the bench when the opponent goes small, Whiteside said: “It’s annoying. We shouldn’t. Why are we matching up? We’ve got one of the best centers in the league. Why are we matching up?
“A lot of teams don’t have a good center. They are going to use their strengths. It’s bull [expletive]. It’s really bull [expletive], man. There are a lot of teams that can use a center. [Expletive]. That’s one of them. That’s bull [expletive].”
Asked if he tried to discuss it with one of the coaches during the game, Whiteside said: “I don’t know if it’s because I’m on a minutes restriction. The minutes have been like that all year. It’s really frustrating. It’s been frustrating. It’s tough. I don’t know, man. It’s crazy. I don’t understand it.”
Asked if this has made him question his future with the Heat, Whiteside said: “I don’t know. Maybe.”
A Heat public relations official eventually stepped in to cut the interview short.
On Sunday, the team fined Whiteside — who has two years and over $52 million remaining on his contract after this season — an undisclosed amount for “comments detrimental to the team.”
If the Heat center’s suggestion comes true and he does get traded, he’d better be ready for more of the same. As NBA lineups get smaller and more varied, teams need more dynamism from the center position, even if it means carrying three centers who offer different skills (perhaps one is a rim-protecting monster like Whiteside; one is a better perimeter defender like his rookie teammate Bam Adebayo; and a third might be an offense-first guy like fellow teammate Kelly Olynyk).
So Whiteside had better get used to inconsistent playing time, or, you know, learn to defend more than three feet from the basket.