MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — Miami center Hassan Whiteside’s game has grown by leaps and bounds since the seven-footer joined the Heat.
His maturity, it seems, is not developing as quickly.
Whiteside said on Monday that he regrets his comments about displeasure with his role in game last weekend against the Brooklyn Nets.
“I was just frustrated,” Whiteside said after practice, his first public comments since his rant Saturday night after not playing the final 21 minutes of a 110-109 overtime loss. “I was frustrated that we lost. I really wanted to get that game.”
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra also addressed the comments by Miami’s 7-foot center — and highest-paid player on the roster, saying he was disappointed Whiteside elected to publicly express his frustration.
“Guys want to throw a few eggs after the game or T.P. my house, that’s actually a better way to deal with it than speaking to (the media) about the frustrations,” Spoelstra said.
Whiteside’s comments after the game included questioning Spoelstra’s decision to play small instead of going big.
“Man, it’s annoying, you know. Why we matching up? We got one of the best centers in the league,” Whiteside said Saturday night. “Why we matching up? A lot of teams don’t have a good center.”
On Monday, he said he regretted his comments.
“I could have handled it different,” Whiteside said, “but I was so caught up and wanted to get that win. I get real competitive. I really want to be out there, but I just trust coach’s decision.”
Saturday’s game was the second for Whiteside in his return to the court after missing the previous nine games with a hip injury. He said he was pleased with how he felt after Monday’s practice.
“I feel great,” Whiteside said. “We had a great practice. I’ll leave it up to the coaching staff’s hands.”
Spoelstra called Whiteside’s comments “poor timing” and “poor judgement.” The coach said he has spoken to Whiteside since Saturday’s game, but insists his role is not in question despite Whiteside playing about seven minutes less than he did a year ago. He has been on the bench for a number of fourth quarters throughout the season.
“It has nothing to do with the role,” Spoelstra said. “He knows exactly what’s expected of him as he continues to get back in shape. He knows what I want out of him and what his teammates want out of him. He’ll continue to work to get back in shape and we’ll get him back to where he was before he got hurt about three-and-a-half weeks ago.”
Amid the Whiteside drama, there is something to perhaps celebrate on Tuesday night — the Heat can clinch their 20th playoff spot in 30 seasons with a win over Atlanta.
“We’re just motivated for the playoffs,” Whiteside said. “We’ll just keep pushing. I had high expectations for this team. Earlier in the year I said this could be a 50-win team. Unfortunately I battled injuries this year, but we still got a chance to be in the playoffs.”
Whiteside is one of 14 players averaging a double-double this season. He’s the second Heat player to average a double-double four consecutive seasons, joining Rony Seikaly. When Whiteside plays this season, the Heat are 27-22; when he doesn’t, they’re 14-14.
Those are the positive numbers. There also are some puzzling ones.
Whiteside blocked an NBA-best 3.7 shots per game two seasons ago; he’s averaging 1.7 a contest this season. His field-goal percentage will drop for the third consecutive year, and is below 50 percent when taking away his 84 dunks. He’s struggled to finish at the rim in some games, and has appeared to not have the same lift as he did in his first three Heat seasons.
Whiteside also has had three stints out of the lineup because of injuries this season, missing about nine weeks with two bone bruises in his left knee and pain in his left hip.
If healthy, on the floor and in form, Whiteside will play a significant role for the Heat in a playoff run.
“He can help us a lot,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “Obviously he’s got to continue to get in game shape like all of us that come back from injuries because you’ve got to get confident in your body so that takes a little while, but when he’s into it, he’s one of the most dominant centers in the game.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)