OAKLAND, Calif. — Hassan Whiteside’s NBA career is off to a historically good start based on his statistics.
The Heat’s $98 million center has already recorded at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in five games over his three seasons with the Heat.
Whiteside finished Tuesday’s loss to the Warriors with 28 points and 20 rebounds in 37 minutes. It marked his third game of the season with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds, and the fifth 20-20 game of his NBA career.
“Coach left me out for a little longer. I played 37 minutes,” Whiteside said after Tuesday’s game against Golden State. “So he just kept me out there. I got to collect [rebounds]. I just try to come out here every game and try to give the same effort. Some games are better than others. My teammates, they made it easier for me.”
Whiteside is one of just eight NBA players since 1983-84 with at least five 20-20 games over the first 176 games of their NBA careers. The others are Shaquille O’Neal (15), Hakeem Olajuwon (10), Charles Barkley (7), Kevin Love (6), Dwight Howard (5), David Robinson (5) and Nikola Vucevic (5).
That’s pretty good company. By comparison, Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing each had one 20-20 game over the first 176 games of their careers.
But there’s one problem. A lot of Whiteside’s dominant performances aren’t resulting in wins.
The Heat hold a 2-3 record in the five games Whiteside has finished with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds. The other seven players who had at least five 20-20 performances over the first 176 games of their NBA careers combined to post a 35-18 record in this situation.
In the 19 games Whiteside has finished with at least 20 points and 15 rebounds over his NBA career, the Heat are 6-13.
That’s the next step for the 27-year-old — putting up dominant numbers in wins.
“It starts always in the days before,” coach Erik Spoelstra said after Whiteside’s dominant performance against the Warriors. “He had a very good practice yesterday, a very good shootaround today, a good film session. He came ready and prepared. I thought he was very impactful and you could see it on both ends of the court. And there’s still another level he needs to get to to get us over the hump. That’s the details all the way through, you know, at the beginning of the third quarter and then down the stretch. But he sure is working at it and that’s what I really like about it.”
Is it unfair to expect that from Whiteside on a team that’s thrown out 17 different starting lineups due to a long list of injuries?
“No. This is what he signed up for,” Spoelstra said. “Those are the expectations that we have for him. He’s shown enough times this year that he’s capable of it. We’ve always said, greatness is consistency. Night in, night out. And against different competition – great competition, sometimes there’s going to be big centers, proven centers, sometimes there’s going be a dynamic space lineup like you saw [in Golden State]. But when he plays at an extremely high level, we’re a good basketball team. Even with all the moving parts, we can compete against every team in this league when he’s like that.”