MIAMI — Hassan Whiteside has hinted at his frustration with his diminished playing time this season. But he was loud and clear on that subject Saturday night.
“Man, it’s annoying. Why we matching up?,” Whiteside said after the Miami Heat’s 110-109 overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets. “We got one of the best centers in the league. Why we matching up? A lot of teams don’t have a good center. They’re going to use their strength. It’s bull—-. It’s really bull—-, man. There’s a lot of teams that could use a center. [Expletive]. That’s bull—-.”
The Heat announced Sunday that Whiteside has been fined an undisclosed amount of money for comments detrimental to the team. He will not be suspended due to the rant.
The Heat’s starting center finished with 14 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes Saturday, but his anger stems from coach Erik Spoelstra’s decision to use a small lineup down the stretch. Whiteside was subbed out of the game with 3:55 remaining in the third quarter and never returned, as Spoelstra turned to a small lineup that featured James Johnson at center to match up with Brooklyn’s personnel.
It was Whiteside who took himself out of the game less than five minutes into the first quarter, though. He explained that with, “Coach wanted me to sub myself out as soon as I felt a little winded.”
Whiteside, who has played in two games since returning from a strained left hip flexor that forced him to miss nine games, is averaging 25.6 minutes of playing time this season after logging a career-high 32.6 minutes last season.
“I don’t know if it’s because of a minutes restriction or what. The minutes have been like that all year,” Whiteside said. “It’s just really frustrating and its been frustrating. It’s tough. I don’t know, man. It’s crazy. I don’t understand it.”
When asked if the lack of minutes has made him question his future in Miami, Whiteside said: “I don’t know. Maybe.”
Whiteside then was asked who he should discuss this with — the front office, the coaching staff or his agent.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know.”
A member of the Heat media-relations staff then ended the interview.
Spoelstra said after Saturday’s loss that Whiteside’s conditioning is still not where it was before the injury, and pointed to Brooklyn’s small lineup as the reason he kept the 7-footer on the bench for the final 20 minutes and 55 seconds of the game.
“It’s not where it was when he left against Philly, his last game [before the injury],” Spoelstra said of Whiteside’s conditioning just minutes before the center’s postgame rant. “He’ll probably say something different. But game action is game action. You can do all you want behind the scenes. But you got to get those minutes in games. He had some good moments tonight. They went to the smaller lineup and it always comes down to that. Does the speed lineup get to size or size get to speed? And their speed got to our size for a little bit.”
While Whiteside’s words Saturday were eye-opening, he’s provided hints throughout the season that he’s not happy with his playing time.
Entering the All-Star break, Whiteside said his goal for the second part of the season was: “Get more playing time, trying to be out there a little more.”
After sitting the final 16 minutes of the Heat’s loss to the Magic on Feb. 5, Whiteside said: “I played my average minutes, you know. I average, what, 22 minutes, 23 minutes. So that’s pretty much how it’s been. But coach went with the team that he wanted to get the win with and it’s coach’s decision. I can’t do nothing about that.”
Following a big win over the Bucks on Jan. 17, Whiteside expressed his gratitude to Spoelstra for allowing him to play 32 minutes: “I’m just glad coach allowed me to play (32) minutes. He left me out there, he really trusted me tonight. I’m just really happy about that.”
After not playing in the fourth quarter of the Heat’s loss to the Bulls on Jan. 15, Whiteside said: “It’s whatever Coach Spo wants. That’s what Coach Spo wants to do, that’s the lineup he wants to go with. … he thinks is going to get us the win. I can’t do nothing about it.”
When asked in January about his lack of fourth-quarter minutes, Whiteside said: “As long as we’re winning. You know, we won. So as a player, of course you want to be out there. But we won the game, so I can’t really be mad at that. That’s what you’re out there to do anyway. You’re out there getting all them rebounds and blocks to win a game. So every point counts.”
Whiteside is averaging 14.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 49 games this season. He’s missed 28 games due to multiple issues — 18 games because of two separate bone bruises on his left knee, one game because of a stomach illness and nine games with his recent hip injury.
Miami has posted a 14-14 record without Whiteside and a 27-22 record when he plays. But his plus-minus numbers aren’t as good, as the Heat have been outscored by 79 points when Whiteside is on the court this season (second-worst plus-minus on the team ahead of only Dion Waiters).
After selecting Bam Adebayo with the 14th overall pick of last year’s draft and signing Kelly Olynyk in free agency last offseason, Whiteside has found himself on a roster that features three centers battling for playing time. Adebayo is averaging 20.1 minutes and Olynyk is averaging 23.6 minutes, but both are averaging more fourth-quarter minutes than Whiteside.
In addition, Whiteside has sat out the entire fourth quarter in 20 of his 49 games. He played in the fourth in 71 of his 77 games last season.
The 28-year-old Whiteside is in the second season of a four-year, $98 million contract that he signed as a free agent in 2016. He’s due $25.4 million next year and has a player option for $27.1 million in 2019-20.
Whiteside is making $23.8 million this season, tied with Andre Drummond, Anthony Davis and Bradley Beal for the 19th highest salary in the league.
The Heat are off Sunday before returning to the practice court Monday. With five regular-season games remaining, Miami hosts the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday.