MIAMI – Heat center Hassan Whiteside has had a few run ins with new teammate Kelly Olynyk over the years, the most publicized his push in the back in 2015 that sent the then Celtics center sprawling and got Whiteside suspended for a game.
But Whiteside believes the scrappy center has not gotten the credit for his versatility, his ability to stretch the floor, his outside shot. … for being a tough cover.
So why is it those skills fly a bit under the radar?
“Because he looks like a surfer,” Whiteside said of the 26-year-old who was born in Toronto.
Whiteside, though, is very familiar with Olynyk’s game.
“He’s a very skilled big,” Whiteside said Saturday before participating in the Celebrity Sweat Softball Challenge.
“A big that can shoot, that can stretch the floor and that can do a lot of different things. He’s not easy to guard. I think he’s a lot better than people are giving him credit for. He’s a very talented player.”
Olynyk, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Heat after playing his first four seasons in Boston, is not the only reason Whiteside is excited about the 2017-18 season. He’s happy for his two teammates, Dion Waiters and James Johnson, both of whom are returning to the Heat after having a breakout season.
“I’m very happy that they’re coming back but I’m even more happy that they’re here for so long instead of signing a one or two year deal,” Whiteside said.
Both agreed on four years, Johnson for $60 million, Waiters for $52 million.
The return of Waiters, Johnson and guard Wayne Ellington means the Heat could have up to 11 players from last season’s team back on the roster. Udonis Haslem is another free agent expected to return.
And Whiteside believes that means a jump in the standings.
“I definitely think we can be a top four team in the East,” Whiteside said when asked for the Heat’s ceiling. “I don’t think that’s out of the question.
“I believe in these guys and we’re going to keep building and keep doing what we did last year.”
What the Heat did was recover from an 11-30 start to finish .500 and miss the playoffs because of a tiebreaker.
“We got the band back,” Whiteside said. “We get a round two at this thing.”