This question has come up repeatedly since Hassan Whiteside emerged with the Heat last season: How does his immaturity go over in a veteran locker room?
It surfaced again Tuesday after Whiteside was kicked out of Miami’s loss to the Spurs for swinging his elbow into Boban Marjanovic’s face. It was his first ejection of the season, though he was tossed twice last year.
Erik Spoelstra made it unmistakably clear he was furious with Whiteside, and his post-game comments suggested the Heat will not protest his Flagrant 2 (and automatic one-game suspension) with the NBA.
“That’s something we’ll deal with with Hassan,” Spoelstra said. “We don’t condone that kind of play. We’ve been through this with him before. It’s a disappointing play. That’s not a basketball play.”
He added that they had minimal conversation about the play afterward. Spoelstra double checked at the scorer’s table that it was a Flagrant 2 and ordered Whiteside to the locker room. The Heat sent him home before post-game media access, so he did not answer questions about the altercation.
That responsibility fell, as it often has, to his teammates.
“You never turn your back on your teammate, but at the same time you’re not always in a position where you can grab somebody’s hand and walk them through every step of the way,” Dwyane Wade said. “Sometimes you have to live with your decisions that you make. I didn’t see what happened, but obviously it was enough for him to get ejected and whatever decision he makes with that, he has to live with that. Whatever consequences come with it, he has to deal with it. The biggest thing from him is you hope he just learns from it. You know, we said that last year.
“He’s been pretty good to this point. Everyone has a lapse in judgment, and obviously he had one. Hopefully he jumps right back on the saddle after the break and he’ll be here when we need him.”
Is Whiteside in good standing in this locker room?
“You know what man, we’re a team and we support each other,” Wade continued. “The one thing with Hassan is, sometimes he goes quiet and he goes to himself a lot. As his teammates, sometimes it’s hard to know what he’s thinking. At the end of the day, we’re all here together. We’re all supposed to be in here for one common goal and we’re all trying to reach that goal together, but sometimes we don’t know what he’s thinking.
“But like I said, we all support each other. He does something, he learns from it hopefully. We’re gonna support him and be behind him and tell him when he’s right and when he’s wrong, and hopefully he takes that the right way and continues to get better. He’s still a young guy. Mistakes is made by young guys in the league, in the world. Hopefully he’s one day able to talk to somebody else about what he’s done, just like Alonzo (Mourning) can talk to him, because Zo did some stuff back in the day and Zo can talk to him about the things he did that hurt his team. So that’s where we’re at.”
Chris Bosh, whose locker is next to Whiteside’s, did not see him after the game. By the time Bosh got out of the shower, he was gone.
Bosh has been one of the most vocal Heat players in trying to help Whiteside, but also has questioned publicly whether he is listening to what veterans are telling him.
“You can always help a guy or try to give some advice,” Bosh said. “People have given me advice over my career. But eventually I have to take that last step forward and really do that. I think the next step for him is learning about reputation. Unfortunately, he’s taken a step back. Whether it’s right or wrong or he made contact or not, I really don’t know, but people see that and they come to expect certain things. You have to build your reputation back up. He’s willing. He wants to win. We just have to encourage him and keep telling him what it takes to win.
“We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface, 50 games in. It’s gonna get a lot more emotional. It’s gonna get tighter and more tense in the locker room and on the court as this season goes on.”
When it was mentioned that this is Whiteside’s first real outburst of the year and he has done well restraining himself so far, Bosh acknowledged that but also pointed out “We’re adults. There’s only so many times– I mean, restraining? It’s not like this is the UFC. It’s basketball. It’s not that emotional. We haven’t had emotional games yet. If you think that’s emotional, then wait ‘til March and April when there’s problems if you don’t do your job. That’s tense.”
The Heat will be in that situation shortly. With 29 games left and the Eastern Conference playoff field bunched tightly after Cleveland and Toronto, Miami could very well spend the final two months of the season fighting every night for positioning.
Does Bosh trust Whiteside when the team encounters those battles?
“I do,” he said. “I trust him because he knows what’s at stake. He knows what we’re trying to do here. He knows what that means as far as his, uh, player reputation for next year (Whiteside will be a free agent this summer) and this year. He wants to do well. That’s what’s most important. In order to do well, hey man, we’re not a team that’s just trying to get by and have an OK season and go home. We’re trying to go to the playoffs and do some damage.”