Hassan Whiteside hoping for fast recovery from lacerated hand: ‘I’m going with the intention to play vs. Raptors’

MIAMI — It took 13 stitches to close the gash on Hassan Whiteside’s right hand Tuesday night.

But it may take more than that to keep Whiteside out of Thursday’s home game against the Raptors. The Heat’s $98 million center is listed as probable to play in the finale of Miami’s five-game homestand.

“It’s day-to-day,” Whiteside said Wednesday afternoon in his first interview since suffering the injury. “But I’m going there with the intention to play tomorrow. I’m going to go out there, see how it feels.”

Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside (21) encourages the crowd during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Tuesday, March 21, 2017, in Miami. The Heat won 112-97. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Whiteside received 13 stitches between his middle and ring fingers Tuesday night after cutting his right hand late in Miami’s 112-97 victory over Phoenix. The injury occurred when he went up to block a shot and got his hand caught on the backboard.

The backboard pulled Whiteside’s right middle and ring fingers apart, creating the laceration. With blood dripping from his hand, Whiteside ran off the court screaming in pain and went straight to the locker room with 2:08 to play.

“When I first did it, I didn’t realize it,” Whiteside said. “I thought I just hit my hand. I remember Josh [Richardson] asked me ‘Are you OK?’ I was like ‘Yeah.’ Then I looked down and was like ‘Oh no. I’m not OK.’ I just felt like something was on my hand, it felt like my hand was wet. I saw it was blood.”

Now, Whiteside is wearing a protective wrap on his right hand as he waits for the cut to heal. He did not practice Wednesday, but he did work on his lower body in the weight room.

“Nothing new, really,” coach Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday when asked about Whiteside’s hand injury. “We don’t have a timeline, we don’t have a status. Just trying to let it start the process of healing.”

When asked if Whiteside has been ruled out for Thursday’s game against the Raptors, Spoelstra said the team “hasn’t gotten to that point yet.”

Strangely enough, this wouldn’t be the first time Whiteside has missed time due to a laceration between his middle and ring fingers on his right hand. He needed 10 stitches in a similar spot after slicing open his hand on the rim almost exactly two years ago in a loss at Milwaukee on March 24, 2015.

Whiteside missed three games with the injury and returned exactly a week after cutting his hand.

“It was just a pain tolerance thing. Opening and closing your hand,” Whiteside said when asked why he missed time with that injury.

But after returning and playing in three games to average 13.3 points on 66.7 percent shooting and 8.7 rebounds during this stretch, Whiteside was forced to miss a fourth game after reinjuring his lacerated right hand as the stitches between his middle and ring fingers came apart.

After missing that one additional game, Whiteside returned to play in four games in a row before sitting out with the other starters in the regular-season finale.

“Maybe tape them together,” Whiteside said of how he can avoid reopening the cut this time. “Tape my fingers together, just avoid anything.”

Whiteside said his current cut is “in the same spot” as the one he missed time with two seasons ago. But this time, Whiteside revealed it “is a little bigger.”

If Whiteside’s recovery timeline is the same as his previous right hand injury, a week out would force him to miss the next two games. That would allow Whiteside to make his return in the Heat’s high-stakes game against the Pistons in Detroit on Tuesday.

But it looks like Whiteside is going to try to come back faster this time. With just 11 games remaining in the regular season and the Heat in the middle of a tight playoff race, Whiteside knows how critical this stretch is.

“As a competitor it always changes your thinking because it’s such a crunch moment in the season,” Whiteside said. “You know you want to do everything you possibly can to help the team. But, you don’t want to go out there and hurt the team. You know, I think that with every injury. If you feel like you can go out there and help or if you can go out there and feel like you’re not helping the team at all, just don’t play.”

Whiteside has missed five games this season due to injury and the Heat are 2-3 without him. If Whiteside is forced to miss time, backup center Willie Reed is expected to start in his place with James Johnson, Okaro White and Udonis Haslem as additional options at the position.

If a smaller cut in a similar spot forced Whiteside to miss a week of action two seasons ago, how would he be able to return without missing any games this time around?

“Experience is the best teacher,” Haslem said. “You get to a point where you’re comfortable being uncomfortable. So obviously the pain in his finger the first time was uncomfortable for him and it was something new. But going through a whole NBA season, experiencing something like that before, he’s getting a little more comfortable being out of his comfort zone and being uncomfortable.”

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