Heat center Hassan Whiteside feels ‘a lot better’ after being allowed to shed knee brace

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside grabs a defensive rebound in front of Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez during the first half of the Heat’s victory Thursday in Miami. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

MIAMI – Hassan Whiteside could not wait to shed the brace he has worn on his left knee for the last three months.

So, when he took the court on Thursday for Miami’s game against the Bulls, he felt like a new man.

“I finally got it off so I feel a lot better,” Whiteside said. “I feel I can jump higher. My athleticism is a lot (better).”

Whiteside started wearing the brace in December, after missing 13 games with a second bruise on his left knee. He removed the brace during a game in Orlando in late December, saying he did not believe it was helping and that it was “extremely uncomfortable.” The organization was not happy and told him he was required to play with it until they decided it was time to come off.

That time was Thursday, the day Whiteside returned after sitting nine games because of a strained left hip flexor.

The decision was made by team doctors.

Now, Whiteside is working on regaining his conditioning before the playoffs begin in two weeks. He played 19 minutes during the win over Chicago, scoring eight points and adding seven rebounds, two blocks and four assists, which equaled his career high.

“Just slowly coming back and getting back into it,” Whiteside said today after the Heat’s shootaround in preparation for tonight’s game against the Nets.

“He looked pretty good,” Justise Winslow said after the Bulls game. “He was a little gassed but Whitey is going to be Whitey. He’s going to get to the basket, roll hard, get rebounds. He missed a couple of jumpers but he hasn’t played in awhile. I liked his play.”

Whiteside, who did bike and elliptical work while injured, believes he’ll be ready for the postseason.

“I don’t think I got that far behind on conditioning,” he said.

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