PHILADELPHIA – As Hassan Whiteside once again expressed his frustration at his lack of minutes in the Heat’s final game of the season, Dwyane Wade had a message for the team’s big man.
“The thing is as players, you don’t want to give yourself an excuse,” Wade said after the Heat’s season ended with a 104-91 loss Tuesday to the Sixers, who won their opening-round playoff series 4-1.
“You want to look and see where you can be better at. It’s easy to say that this series wasn’t a ‘big-man’ series. Or it’s easy to say that coach did this or that or I got in foul trouble. Don’t give yourself an excuse. Just go into the summer and work on what you need to work on mentally and physically and get yourself ready for when this opportunity comes again. That shows your real character.”
Whiteside played just 10:05 Tuesday, scoring two points and missing all four of his shots. He averaged just 15.4 minutes, 5.2 points and 6.0 rebounds in the series. This from the team’s highest paid player who is due $52.5 million the next two years, the final two of the $98 million deal he signed two summers ago.
But as he has most of the series and at different times during the season, Whiteside cited his lack of minutes when asked about his decreased productivity.
And when asked what was most frustrating for the team in this series, Whiteside made it about himself.
“Not being out there,” he said. “At least give me a chance to fight. I can understand if I was playing 30 minutes and I played bad. At least give me a chance.”
Whiteside’s season ended just 3:45 into the third quarter when he was replaced by Bam Adebayo and never returned, similar to Game 2 when he played 2:35 of the third quarter and sat the rest of the game.
“I thought I was going to go back in, but I didn’t,” Whiteside said.
Whiteside had “nothing to say” when asked what he took from this series but later added this situation is “definitely something” he can discuss with coach Erik Spoelstra and president Pat Riley during the offseason.
“We played a style of play coach wanted,” Whiteside said. “He wanted to utilize more spacing I guess in the playoffs, so that’s why he did it.”
Spoelstra, who clearly did not trust Whiteside in big situations, would not criticize his center on Tuesday and even said he “grew” this season despite Whiteside’s profane-laced rant late in the season about his playing time. The organization fined Whiteside an undisclosed amount.
“I look back on the season and he had a lot of great moments,” Spoelstra said. “It was a little bit uneven and a lot of it, to be fair, was him in and out of the lineups with his injuries. Our team would evolve and all of a sudden he would have to try to play back in and then do this all with the scrutiny and noise with everything outside.
“I think he grew this year. I think there are uncomfortable times and there are times when he wanted to have more of an impact. I love that. I don’t want players who want to sit on the bench and be cool with that. But he learned how to manage things and handle things better, with more professionalism and class. That will serve him well going forward.”
Whiteside’s scoring and rebounding dipped during the season with averages of 14.0 points and 11.4 rebounds. He missed 28 games, mostly due to two different bruises to his left knee and a strained left hip flexor.