The Miami Heat ran into a better team in a first-round loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, and for the most part, the team performed admirably despite the quick exit from the postseason.
However, the work of Hassan Whiteside was criticized throughout the series, and on multiple occasions, the 7-footer lamented his lack of playing time, while producing all kinds of (external) buzz about potential trades that could send him elsewhere.
With that as the backdrop (and knowledge that it would be very difficult to move Whiteside given the $50-plus million remaining on his contract), head coach Erik Spoelstra did his best to assuage any controversy during Miami’s exit interviews on Friday. In speaking to the assembled media, he did his best to ease the attention and provide optimism concerning his highly-paid big man.
“This is one of those periods that we know how to manage and help players get through,” Spoelstra said, while speaking to reporters in an end-of-the season news conference. “And when you get through it, there’s tremendous growth opportunity on the other side of that.”
From there, Spoelstra also indicated that the team simply “ran out of time,” and he believes that “the relationship and the commitment won’t change” with regard to Whiteside. In some ways, it can be explained away that Whiteside wasn’t able (or given the opportunity) to contribute in the playoffs, simply because the Sixers provide all kinds of match-up issues for the opposition.
Spoelstra, perhaps alluding to that, reportedly shared that “the narrative and the storylines that will be out there, I do think are unfair about Hassan right now.” Still, it has to be noted that Miami has often been at its best when its highest-paid player is off the floor, and Whiteside’s public persona during negative times hasn’t always been optimal from the perspective of the franchise.
Given the situation with his contract and potential inflexibility, Spoelstra said all the right things on Friday (despite the potentially over-the-top nature of helping his starting center “reach his dreams”), and nothing less would be expected from a top-flight head coach. That does not, however, silence any buzz from around the league on what Miami could look to do this summer, and if Whiteside returns for 2018-2019, there will be a lot of attention on his deployment, usage and public comments.