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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The future between the Miami Heat and young center Hassan Whiteside is a murky one.

Whiteside has emerged as one of the best up-and-coming centers in the NBA and is enjoying his first full season as a star.

He will be an unrestricted free agent once the Heat play their last game, whether that be in the playoffs or before, and it’s widely disputed as to what the team will do with the ascending youngster.

On the court, Whiteside can be a game-changer.

Twice this season he’s achieved a triple-double, with points, rebounds and blocked shots.

He is a scoring threat in the paint and can play game-changing defense under the basket.

There is no denying his skill.

Unfortunately, there is more than just talent to deal with when it comes to Whiteside.

Heat President Pat Riley has always looked to bring in a certain type of player when adding to the team.

He likes high character guys who are as strong mentally as they are on the court.

Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Alonzo Mourning, LeBron James and Udonis Haslem are all perfect examples of these kind of players.

Looking deeper into the Heat’s past, Riley’s stamp of approval can be found on Dan Majerle, Voshon Lenard, Shane Battier, Rony Seikaly, Eddie Jones and of course Timmy Hardaway, just to name a few.

Based on the brief history with Whiteside and the Heat, he doesn’t appear to be one of ‘those guys’.

There is no doubting the talent, but there is a lot more to being a Pat Riley guy than just physical skills.

A perfect example of this came up during Tuesday night’s game between Miami and the visiting San Antonio Spurs.

After the Heat had pulled within seven points of the Spurs early in the fourth quarter, attempting a thrilling comeback in front of a packed AmericanAirlines Arena, Whideside’s lack of mental toughness was on full display.

Spurs guard Patty Mills hit a 3-pointer despite being fouled by Miami’s Beno Udrih, which led to an additional free throw.

Mills would hit the foul shot but the real action was below the basket, when Whiteside blatantly elbowed Spurs center Boban Marjanovic in the side of the head while fighting for position on the possible rebound which never came to be.

The play was reviewed and ruled a Flagrant 2 foul, which in addition to more free throws and possession of the ball going back to San Antonio, it also comes with the immediate ejection of  Whiteside.

In the span of just 16 seconds, the Spurs went from leading by seven points to leading by fourteen and suddenly the game was well out of reach for the Heat.

It was Whiteside’s first ejection of the season. He was sent off twice last season.

“That’s something that we’ll deal with with Hassan,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We don’t condone that kind of play. We’ve been through this with him before. But it’s a disappointing play. That’s not a basketball play.”

Heat officials sent Whiteside home early, before the media would have a chance to speak with him about the play.

Considering his history, one has to wonder what this does to Riley’s plans for Whiteside and the Heat moving forward.

The NBA will be taking some time off for its annual All-Star Game, which is coming up this weekend in Toronto.

Just four days later on February 18th is the league’s trade deadline.

Could Whiteside be in play if Riley and the Heat know they don’t intend to offer him a long-term contract following the season?

Somebody out there is likely going to offer Whiteside a max-contract, but now the question is whether Miami feel’s he’s worth the investment.

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