In a national television showcase featuring several of basketball’s biggest names, the player who shone brightest was one of whom the audience hadn’t heard. Miami Heat big man Hassan Whiteside dominated the paint during his team’s decisive 96-84 win over the Chicago Bulls, notching an incredible triple-double of 14 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 blocks – in just 24 minutes of playing time.
The 25 year-old journeyman etched his name in the record books by filling the stat sheet in such a limited amount of playing time:
Today’s performance was the apex of a meteoric rise for Whiteside, who was picked off the scrap heap by Miami in late November and assigned to the franchise’s D-League affiliate just a couple weeks later. The seven-foot behemoth emerged as a fixture of Erik Spoelstra’s rotation in late December after being recalled from the Sioux Falls Skyforce, and enjoyed a six-game streak of double-digit scoring outings to open January – including a 23-point, 16-rebound performance two weeks ago versus DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, and the Los Angeles Clippers.
But the Whiteside train was briefly halted last week when he sprained his ankle versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. The energetic jumping-jack missed Miami’s previous two games, and wasn’t sure he’d be able to play against the Bulls despite being listed on the active roster.
Below is a playlist of Whiteside’s 12 blocks courtesy of CBS Sports’ James Herbert. Does this look like a guy with a balky ankle?
Just imagine what he could do when fully healthy.
But Whiteside’s dominance also extended to the other end of the floor. Check out this eye-opening two-way sequence from the second quarter:
There was this dunk over Pau Gasol, too:
What sticks out to us as much as Whiteside’s rare combination of size, length, and bounce is his hands. The Marshall product catches every lob thrown his way and manages to corral rebounds in traffic with ease. Players with Whiteside’s basic physical profile don’t grow on trees, but can still be found; those with exceptional hands are still fewer and farther between.
Though it’s his play versus Chicago that has the basketball world buzzing, Whiteside has been good enough in other games to allow for the suggestion that he’s not a flash in the pan. While it’s wildly premature to say he’s a star, it’s not to believe that Whiteside will establish himself as a premier paint-protector at the very least over the season’s remainder. He’s been that intimidating during his brief court-time in 2014-2015, and his natural shot-blocking instincts are that evident.
The next step for Whiteside, though, is avoiding foul trouble so Spoelstra can leave him on the floor for extended stretches. Considering where he was just two months ago, that’s a mighty impressive feat in itself.
What do you think?
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