MIAMI – Heat forward Udonis Haslem was not with the team in Cleveland last Friday when center Hassan Whiteside was benched by coach Erik Spoelstra.
Whiteside’s play was lacking effort and Spoelstra was not happy.
But Haslem, the captain and most powerful voice among the players, has one bit of advice for Miami’s $98 million man: Do not let your teammates down.
“I would just say go out and play the game and enjoy the game and focus on being the guy that your teammates can depend on every night,” said Haslem, who was excused from the game against the Cavaliers to fly to Orlando and watch his son, a senior offensive lineman at St. Thomas Aquinas, win a state title.
“My motivation every night I stepped out on the floor was never to score or anything like that. I just didn’t want to let my teammates down. I just wanted to be the guy they knew that regardless of the situation they could depend on me to bring it every night. I just played out of fear of letting my teammates down. That was really my motivation. So, I would just tell him to go out there and be the guy that guys can depend on every night and motivate yourself by not letting your teammates down. That’s the way I played the game every time.”
Haslem believes Whiteside is handling the responsibilities of being a max player, but adds that he wouldn’t know what those responsibilities entail considering “I was never the guy that made that much money, had that much pressure.”
“I think he’s done well,” Haslem said. “It’s a work in progress for everybody. All of us, we’re growing together and with Dwyane (Wade gone), all eyes are on Hassan and him being our best player and him being the guy that most likely decides whether we win or lose the majority of the nights.
“I’m sure that’s got to be a lot to carry and it’s a lot coming quickly. But, we all have patience with each other. We’ll continue to have patience with him. We’ll continue to have patience with the season. I have seen strides. So the thing is just continue to get better with it.”
Spoelstra pulled Whiteside less than three minutes into the second half of Miami’s 114-84 loss. Whiteside finished with eight points, 12 rebounds and no blocks.
Spoelstra made is clear following the game it was a coaches decision and nothing to do with Whiteside playing on a sore knee.
“Just wanted some more energy, some more life on the glass, defending pick-and-rolls,” Spoelstra said. “This league is for competitors only. It’s great competitive matchups every single night. We have a lot of guys out, so that’s a big responsibility for Hassan. He’s starting to understand what that actually means.”