Pat Riley said Erik Spoelstra, Hassan Whiteside need an ‘intervention,’ adds ‘I’m going to try to help both of them’

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside heads to the bench after fouling out during a game against Sacramento this season. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI – Pat Riley wasn’t about to give Hassan Whiteside a pass for his play this season, but the Heat president did not entirely blame his $98 million center for his decreased production during the regular season and playoffs.

That, Riley said, also was the fault of Erik Spoelstra, who Riley handpicked as his successor 11 years ago.

“There has to be an intervention and I’m going to be the intervener,” Riley said Monday, the day he met with the media to discuss the state of the Heat.

“The disconnect between he and Spo that’s going to take a discussion between them and it’s going to take thought on the part of coach and also Hassan.”

Whiteside’s numbers declined to 14.0 points and 11.4 rebounds while playing 25.3 minutes per game, a dip of more than seven minutes per game. And then came the playoffs after Miami’s 44-38 season landed them in the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference and a first-round series with No. 3 Philadelphia.

Whiteside, 28, was a total non-factor with 5.2 points and 6.0 rebounds while playing just 15.4 minutes per game as the Heat were eliminated in five games.

Spoelstra was much easier on his 7-foot center during his season-ending news conference, saying he thought the narrative and story lines about Whiteside were “unfair” and adding: “I love working with Hassan”

This after Whiteside was fined by the organization in March for a profanity-laced rant about his lack of playing time and again expressing his dissatisfaction about how he was being used by Spoelstra following the Sixers series-clinching win in Philadelphia last week.

Riley referenced Whiteside’s injuries – as did Spoelstra – that forced him to miss 28 games, 18 because of two different bone bruises and nine in March because of a hip injury.

“By the time we got to the playoffs I don’t think he was ready,” Riley said. “He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t in great shape. He wasn’t fully conditioned for a playoff battle mentally. He and we got our heads handed to us.

“How will Hassan transform his thinking – 99 percent of it – to get the kind of improvement that Spo wants so he can be effective? How can Spo transform his thinking when it comes to offense and defense or minutes or whatever. However he uses him, that’s what you do. We go through this almost every year with players. There’s always a disagreement, a change in philosophy or whatever it is. I have the same problem with Hassan. That problem is that he’s going to have to do something to change because he’s a helluva player.”

Riley acknowledged the game has changed since he gave Whiteside a max deal two summers ago. Centers like Whiteside – low-post, back-to-the-basket big men – are not as valuable as the versatile centers who can shoot 3-pointers, like the Heat’s Kelly Olynyk.

Riley also believes Whiteside still can be a dominant, useful player in the league and rattled off five centers with a skill set more like Whiteside’s – including OKC’s Steven Adams and Detroit’s Andre Drummond – who remain productive.

“You’ve got these quintessential sort of centers that are being forced to play a certain game because the game has changed and there’s only one or two or three teams that can play that game because three or four transformative players that can make that game effective,” Riley said. “So, how do we make him effective? That’s what it is. How does he make himself effective to do the things he needs to do – defend, rebound, shot blocking, all of those things that he did that we fell in love with the first year, second year.

“He had a bad year this year. He’s got to come back strong next year. I’m going to try to help him as much as I can. I’m going to try to help the both of them so we can keep him on the court 30 minutes a game. But he’s got to help himself.”

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