Ready or not, Heat center Willie Reed set to fill in for injured Hassan Whiteside

Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) tries to control the ball after it was knocked away by Miami Heat forward Willie Reed (35) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) tries to control the ball after it was knocked away by Miami Heat forward Willie Reed (35) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

MIAMI — Willie Reed purposely sits at the end of the Heat’s bench during games.

“Udonis [Haslem] has been key for my growth,” Reed said. “I sit at the end of the bench because I want him to talk to me during the plays so I can understand how I can get better.”

But Reed is expected to start the next few games on the court with Hassan Whiteside recovering from a right retinal contusion. Whiteside, the Heat’s starting center, did not travel with the team to Phoenix for the start of Miami’s six-game road trip.

It’s just part of Reed’s ongoing learning experience with the Heat. The 26-year-old entered this season with just two NBA starts under his belt.

“I’m starting to understand the game more,” Reed said. “Obviously I haven’t played a lot of games in the NBA so having the experience to be able to play and having the coaches in my ear to help me learn has been key for me.”

Reed has already started one game in place of the injured Whiteside in Sunday’s loss to the Pistons. In a matchup against Detroit center Andre Drummond, Reed finished with four points, two rebounds, two assists and one block.

Drummond finished with 25 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks.

“I’m going to go back and I’m going to watch the film with the coaches and just see where I made my mistakes,” Reed said after playing against Drummond. “But I fought hard today. I thought I tried to keep the ball from out of the paint a little bit. I didn’t rebound the basketball as well as I wanted to today. But I understand that looking across and looking at what [Drummond has] become, I think that if I keep working that’s the type of rebounder I can become and physical presence.”

It doesn’t get much easier for Reed either. If Whiteside misses the entire six-game trip, Reed will have to go against centers like Tyson Chandler, DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan.

“It’s definitely going to help me grow,” Reed said. “Whenever you get the opportunity to play against high level centers, that’s going to help you to be able to grow. I know I have to bring my best game. I have to bring that defensive mindset mentality to be able to make it hard for them and make it as tough as possible every time they touch the basketball.”

Reed is averaging 3.9 points, four rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game this season. He’s shooting 55.6 percent from inside the paint.

On the defensive end, players are shooting 52.7 percent — 5.5 percent better than their usual field goal percentage — when defended by Reed this season.

Improving all of those numbers is important, but Reed believes the biggest improvement he can make has to do with his body. Although he’s listed at 220 pounds, he said he’s between 235 and 240 pounds and is working to add muscle to his frame.

“I think the biggest key for me in improving is with my body,” Reed said. “Getting stronger in the lower body and being able to be quicker, those type of things. But I think mentally, I think I’m learning the game better every single day. The more I play, the more I’ll learn. Offensively, I think I’m getting better every single day.”

[Dwyane Wade proving to be durable in first season with Chicago Bulls]

[Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow not with Heat for start of 6-game trip]

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