Hassan Whiteside is a lot of things on the basketball court: an incredible shot blocker; dominant rebounder; and premier interior intimidator at both ends of the floor. His much-improved play over the past six weeks or so not only has the prospective free agent primed for a huge pay day, but the Miami Heat playing better than ever with the playoffs approaching, too.
The guidance of Erik Spoelstra has been instrumental to Whiteside’s rise both overall and this season specifically. The hot-tempered big man was a journeyman with no discernible future before catching on with the Heat last season, and his second campaign in Miami was off to a rough start before Spoelstra moved him to the bench in early February. The relationship between player and coach hasn’t always been rosy, but is certainly proving increasingly fruitful nonetheless – as this hilarious sequence from the Heat’s win over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night makes abundantly clear.
After pulling down an offensive rebound, Whiteside immediately went to work on fellow behemoth Andre Drummond in the post. He was stymied after a quick turn to the baseline, though, left with no options but to loop back toward the center for an awkward leaner, take a difficult fadeaway jumper over his defender’s outstretched arms, or – gasp! – pass out to an open teammate and reinitiate Miami’s offense.
Whiteside, remember, is a lot of things on the basketball court, but he definitely isn’t a passer. His impossibly low assist total has become a joke among league followers, the rare comical narrative that statistics actually support. Whiteside’s assist to pass rate is fourth worst in the league at 1.7 percent, and he passes on just 6.6 percent of his post possessions according to Synergy.
But what did he decide to do against Drummond? Throw a pass out to rookie sensation Josh Richardson and follow it to set a ball screen. Spoelstra’s reaction, an immediate timeout, aggressive clapping, and a pointed high five, says more about the surprise of that development than anything we ever could.