Just less than a month ago, it had grown increasingly safe to assume that Hassan Whiteside’s days with the Miami Heat were numbered. The prospective free agent just played a season-low 16 minutes during a dispiriting loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the third consecutive game in which he’d come off the bench since returning from a hip injury that sidelined him for two weeks.
“I’m done talking to Coach about [not starting],” Whiteside told the Palm Beach Post after the game. “I have nothing else – we’ve talked about it so many times, ain’t no reason to keep talking to him about it.”
That hollow indifference portended tough times for Erik Spoelstra and the hot-tempered big man. A “demotion” to the bench is always a tough pill to swallow for incumbent starters – especially ones facing their first foray into free agency as a high-profile target. Just how many millions would riding the pine at tip-off cost Whiteside in July?
Maybe the notoriously mercurial 26 year old’s knowledge of that seeming inevitability is what prompted his decided change of tune. Or more likely, he’s simply realized the sweeping benefits of his new situation. Either way, what’s clear is that Spoelstra’s hot-button decision to bring arguably his most talented player off the bench didn’t just repair Whiteside’s fractured reputation and revive his career, but might have saved the Heat’s season, too.