Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A few things to watch during this two-game road trip as the Heat’s offense continues to develop:

— Luol Deng said he played “12 to 15 minutes” at power forward on Monday in the Heat’s victory against the Philadelphia 76ers. Deng is playing out of position by necessity and filling in part-time for Chris Bosh. Since Sunday, Deng has been watching and breaking down film on Bosh.

“He has proven that he can guard multiple players,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Deng. “Really he is one through four for us. Offensively, I don’t like categorizing players by old conventional standards because in our offense it really is position-less.”

In other words, someone’s gotta stretch the floor at power forward. Might as well be Deng.

— Spoelstra and the Heat have done some heavy lifting on the practice court since acquiring Goran Dragic. The team, which played offense as a snail’s pace before Dragic, is now back to pushing the tempo. It’s a bold move this close to the playoffs, but really the only way Spoelstra can finish the year considering Dragic will be a free agent after the season.

The Heat scored 119 points on Monday, which was the team’s highest scoring total of the season. Spoelstra pointed to the team’s assist total (27) as proof that the offensive is coming together. The team’s ball movement was noticeably better on Monday against the 76ers than during Friday’s loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

— Heat center Hassan Whiteside has eight double-doubles in 11 games. He’ll need more touches with Bosh out.

“It’s tough to replace C.B. and make that up,” Whiteside said. “He’s such a dynamic player. He averaged 22 points, so really it’s hard to replace that. We’re going to have to make up a new system now. We’re going to get it together, though.

“Normally when a team has changes, regardless of how good the players are, you just kind of have to work with it, and get used to playing with those guys.”

Thursday, February 19, 2015

UPDATE: Heat's long search for an elite point guard to complement Dwyane Wade appears to be over

The Heat's long search for an elite point guard to complement Dwyane Wade in the backcourt appears to be over.

 

The Heat and Phoenix Suns finalized a deal just before the trade deadline on Thursday for point-guard Goran Dragic, according to a Twitter report by Yahoo!Sports. The deal moved Heat players Danny Granger, Norris Cole, Shawne Williams, Justin Hamilton and two first-round picks. Dragic's brother, Zoran, was also included in the deal.

 

A 28-year-old from Slovenia, Dragic was a third-team All-NBA selection last season when he averaged 20.3 points and 5.9 assists per game. He will come to Miami likely wanting a five-year deal worth over $100 million, and with the Heat parting with so many players to land the point guard, then Dragic appears to be in the long-term plans.

 

Dragic’s official breakout came last season when fellow Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe went down with an injury during the middle of the season. Despite the injury to Bledsoe, Dragic led the Suns to an excellent second half of the regular season and nearly qualified the Suns for the playoffs in the difficult Western Conference.

 

Nicknamed the Dragon, Dragic demanded a trade earlier this week and his agent, Bill Duffy, informed the Suns’ front office that Dragic wanted to play in either New York, Los Angeles or Miami. On Wednesday, Dragic told reporters that he didn’t trust the Suns’ management any longer. The posturing put pressure on the Suns to finalize a deal before the deadline at 3 p.m.

 

The deal is a huge one for Heat president Pat Riley, who got his man and didn't have to give any key pieces to the Heat's current rotation. Chris Andersen and Luol Deng were both rumored to be part of the deal at different times on Thursday.

+++UPDATE+++

It appears Heat president Pat Riley is going all in trying to acquire Suns point guard Goran Dragic in a trade. The Heat reportedly has offered Chris Andersen, Norris Cole and Josh McRoberts plus two future first-round picks for Dragic, according to ESPN.

Dragic will be a free agent this summer, which means Riley must be certain he can lock Dragic for five years. Otherwise, offering so many players and assets in a mega-deal would be too risky. The Heat would have to add some more size for this season to replace Andersen, but Heat center Hassan Whiteside is expected to receive more minutes beyond the All-Star break.

+++EARLIER+++

Heat president Pat Riley apparently is going for the home run today in an attempt to upgrade his team's roster for the playoffs and beyond. Riley offered the Phoenix Suns two first-round picks this morning for point guard Goran Dragic, according to a Twitter report by ESPN's Chris Broussard.

So, which year's first-round picks would be sent to Phoenix? It's a little complicated...

Philadelphia has partial rights to the Heat's first-round pick this season. The Heat's first-round pick this season is Top 10 protected, which means if the Heat finishes among the top two-thirds in the league this season (11-30), then Philadelphia gets the Heat's pick. If the Heat is one of the worst 10 teams in the league, then it keeps its 2015 pick and the deal with Philadelphia gets pushed to 2016.

All signs point to the Heat giving up its first-found pick to Philly this season, but if the pick isn't conveyed then the same deal applies in 2016. If the Heat still hasn't given a first-round pick to the Sixers by 2017, then Philadelphia just gets the pick outright.

The Heat owns its first-round picks outright from 2018 to 2021.

So, if the Suns accept this deal from the Heat, then that likely means the Heat will be sending its 2017 and 2019 first-round picks to the Suns with Philadelphia getting this year's pick. There is a trade mechanism in place that prohibits teams from trading consecutive first-round picks. This mechanism is known as the Stepien.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

EARLIER

Trade-deadline day is here and the Heat is actively trying to make some moves to not only improve its roster for the playoff push, but also set itself up for future success.

The team's top target is Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic, who is 28 years old and seeking a five-year deal that will pay him at least $100 million. Dragic's agent informed the Suns earlier this week that his client doesn't want a contract extension with the Suns, and that Dragic would like to be traded to either Miami, New York or the Los Angeles Lakers.

On Wednesday, Dragic told reporters that he didn't trust the Suns' management any longer, which put even more pressure on the Suns' front office to move him before the trade deadline. While Dragic has informed the Suns he would like to play in Miami, Los Angeles or New York, the Suns are just looking to get the most out of the trade. That likely eliminates the Lakers and Knicks from the conversation, and possibly the Heat as well.

It could go all the way to the deadline (3 p.m.) if the Heat lands Dragic, which means the next few hours will be intense ones for the Heat's front office. The Heat has assets to make a deal, and it has been speculated that forward Luol Deng could be offered to the Suns for Dragic. The Heat can also offer its next available first round pick in the deal. The Heat still owes Philadelphia a first-round pick, though.

Some factors the Heat might be considering before committing to Dragic:

1. Dragic might not be the point guard of the future for the Heat.

There's no question that he would be a huge upgrade at the position for the Heat, but Dragic is 28 years old and his numbers are down this season compared to 2013-14. Of course, Dragic is playing fewer minutes this season and he didn't share a backcourt with Eric Bledsoe for half of 2013-14.

2. The best-case scenario for the Heat would be landing Dragic while also keeping Deng. That could mean losing Chris Andersen. Can the Heat win a championship next season with this lineup: Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside?

3. How much will the Heat have to offer Whiteside if the team gives Dragic a max deal? If Whiteside keeps playing like one of the best centers in Heat history, he will no doubt command a hefty contract. That seems like a problem for another day, but just something to consider.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Chris Bosh and friends set new world record on basketball court in Brooklyn

Chris Bosh and teammates Swin Cash and Dominique Wilkins won the Shooting Stars competition for the third consecutive year on Saturday at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. If you're wondering, yes, that's a world record.

What's the Shooting Stars competition? TV producers would tell you it's program filler wrapped around commercials, but that would be cynical and coarse. Bosh, Cash and Wilkins genuinely enjoy the event, which is first on the undercard of All-Star Saturday Night. Bosh is like the master of this non-competition competition, which is a timed event that ends with a team having to hit a half-court shot.

Why is Team Bosh so darn good at this thing?

"We have a good time," Cash said. "We really do. This is fun for us."

And it's fun for reporters, too, because it's a nice break from the day-to-day grind. Bosh made two half-court shots on his attempts last season and made another half-court shot on Saturday. Wilkins hit the competition-winning half-court shot in the championship round.

So, that's a 3-peat. Naturally, I asked Bosh if he's already looking forward to going for four straight next season when the All-Star game is in Toronto.

"Let's just soak all this in," said Bosh, a 10-time All-Star. "We're about to pop a couple bottles of Champagne back there and mess up the locker room and trash it real nice and then move on with the rest of our weekend."

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Here's how LeBron started a not-controversy controversy with Hassan Whiteside

Hassan Whiteside went MarShawn Lynch today at the Heat's morning shootaround when he refused to answer questions about tonight's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a bad look for Whiteside, who generally is friendly and outgoing with everybody.

So, what got Whiteside so bent out of shape? It all started with an innocent comment he made on Tuesday about playing against LeBron James. The Heat defeated James and the Cavaliers on Christmas Day, but Whiteside had a limited role in the upset. The 7-foot center hadn't yet morphed into the rim-protecting, backboard-cleaning monster he was in January. So, now that Whiteside is playing a more advanced role, and he's the focal point of the Heat's defense, it was only natural for reporters to ask Whiteside about going against LeBron. Whiteside called LeBron a "good player" before noting that it wasn't his assignment to guard the four-time MVP.

"I'll just meet him at the rim," Whiteside concluded.

Those comments went out on Twitter, and apparently they caught LeBron's all-seeing eye. Now fast-forward to Wednesday morning after the Cavaliers' shootaround. Asked a simple question about Whiteside, LeBron decided to have a little fun...

QUESTION: LeBron, Hassan Whiteside has been one of the more surprising stories in the NBA the first half of the season. What are your thoughts about him and his emergence out of nowhere?

LEBRON: "He's a big. He's huge. He is very long, athletic, but he's just a big guy, and in our league where there are not that many guys like him with his size, he is able to get a lot of rebounds, change a lot of shots at the rim, and he has a really good touch, as well, around the rim. And they have been looking for him, too.

"It's a huge pick up for them, for sure. I know a lot of teams wish they had him. He was up in Memphis earlier in the season, and Miami lucked up on something and it's good. I'm happy for them. I'm happy for the kid more than anything ... even though he just thinks I'm a good player, I'm happy for him."

Now, understand, LeBron was joking. He smiled afterwards. But he knew exactly what he was doing by pointing out a perceived slight. After the interview he walked past me and said, "You're tweeting that out right now, right?"

OK ... so then I get in the rental car and drive from the Cavs' training facility back into the city for Heat shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena. Here's the transcript of Whiteside's interview...

TRANSCRIPT

QUESTION: LeBron said this morning that he knows you think he's a good player, and that he's happy for you and what you've been able to accomplish this season. [LAUGHS] You looking forward to going up against him tonight?

WHITESIDE: "Yeah, man, y'all just blew that up way out of proportion, but, I mean, I don't really know what to say. I don't got nothing to say."

QUESTION: As you've become more of a pubic figure ... do you find yourself ... I don't say more careful of what you say, but just sort of appreciate...

WHITESIDE: "I don't got nothing to say."

QUESTION (conti.) : ... there's a different media spotlight?

WHITESIDE: "I don't got nothing to say. I don't got nothing to say."

QUESTION: What's the issue? What happened?

WHITESIDE: "I don't got nothing to say." [To a PR person.] "Let me know when my time is up."

QUESTION: What happened?

WHITESIDE: [Walks away.]

So, that's how players like LeBron can use the media — intentionally, unintentionally, doesn't really matter — in the age of Twitter to generate what I like to call not-controversy controversies. The end game: LeBron, now a master in the art of gamesmanship, got in a player's head before a game.

SEE ALSO: Kevin Love.

Friday, February 06, 2015

The inbounds turnover saga continues: We've deciphered the complete transcript of Shaqtin' A Fool.

It's the inbounds turnover that needs no introduction.

With 41 seconds left in Wednesday's game in Minneapolis and the Heat trailing the Minnesota Timberwolves by only one point, Norris Cole told Hassan Whiteside to inbounds the ball after Cole himself had already inbounded the ball. It resulted in one of the most bizarre miscommunications in recent human history.

Naturally, the guys at NBA on TNT had fun with the goof during their segment Shaqtin' A Fool. Ernie Johnson and Shaq said the turnover was the fault of  Cole. Kenny Smith blamed Whiteside. Skip to No.4 on the list, or watch the entire bit. It's funny throughout. Enjoy.

COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT DECIPHERED

“This is the worst of all time,” NBA on TNT host Ernie Johnson said.

“Norris Cole! This is the worst turnover of history,” Shaq said. “Not the year; history.

“This is crazy. Look at this,” Kenny Smith said.

“Nine-year-olds do this,” Shaq said.

“Whiteside is worse than Cole,” Smith said. “Why did he go back?”

“That’s on Norris Cole, man,” Ernie Johnson said.

“That’s on Whiteside,” Smith said.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Complete and official breakdown of the Heat's bench reaction to that embarrassing inbounds turnover.

So, here's the inbounds play from last night's game that will forever live in stupidity.

First, let's frame the situation...

Moments before the turnover, which, by the way, was officially credited to Hassan Whiteside, Timberwolves shooting guard Kevin Martin made a 15-foot jump shot to give Minnesota a 102-101 lead with 41 seconds left. The Heat had already blown a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead to the, record-wise, worst team in the NBA, so next possession was going to be an important one.

In other words, the Heat's players needed to muster the complete sum total of all their professional faculties and pour their collective concentration into retaking the lead. After all, a firm grasp of eighth place in the Eastern Conference was on the line.

So, there was the ball and all its potential energy ... bouncing ... under the basket ...

We'll skip over the blow-by-blow of the actual mixup between Whiteside and Norris Cole — why point fingers? — and instead focus on the reaction of the people seated on the Heat's bench.


— First, as the camera pans from right to left, there's Erik Spoelstra. He's standing up with his hands on his hips. Quite the poker face there for the Heat's head coach, considering some of the animated expressions in his facial repertoire. This is probably what Spoelstra was thinking, more or less.

— Next in line is Heat trainer Jay Sabol, who appears to be holding a clipboard. Not much of an expression from Jay, who is probably trying to figure out how to chart that play or something.

— Assistant Keith Smart is up next. Smart is a veteran at this gig, and has coached through his fair share of interesting situations. He knows the drill and assumes the position. Smart leans back in his seat and looks to the heavens for spiritual guidance.

— Now to the climax of this seated row of Heaters, the emotive assistant coach David Fizdale. Fizdale does what everyone else did watching at home. He buries his head in shame.

— Then there's assistant coach Juwan Howard, who works with Whiteside every day in practice. Howard appears to be frozen in motionless shock.

— To the right of Howard is rookie guard Tyler Johnson. The delayed reaction let's us know he's just trying to fit in.

— Next to Johnson is another rookie, point guard Shabazz Napier. He's probably wondering why he's not in the game.

— Then there's James Ennis. His brain hurts.

Maccaulay Culkin is seated next to Ennis.

— Not quite sure who hides behind Culkin's back.

— Lastly, I'd like to draw special attention to the fan seated to the left of Spoelstra. This is the guy who shelled out some serious cash for a seat next to the Heat's bench. Naturally, he's completely obviously to the action and staring off into outer space.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Flip Saunders on Hassan Whiteside: 'People questioned his work ethic, they questioned him off the court in some situations and they questioned his discipline'

Heat center Hassan Whiteside worked out for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2012 after being released by the Sacramento Kings. The Timberwolves didn't bite. That was long before current Minnesota coach Flip Saunders rejoined the team, but Saunders is familiar with Whiteside and his previous stint in the NBA nonetheless.

Asked how a player like Whiteside could fall through the cracks, Saunders expounded on some of the widely used criticism of Whiteside that kept him out of the NBA for two seasons. Whiteside was released by the Kings following a summer-league game, which raised red flags throughout the league.

"He fell through the cracks as much as anything because of whether it was people questioned his work ethic, they questioned him off the court in some situations and they questioned his discipline," Saunders said. "Sometimes what happens is that he’s 25, 26 now. He has matured. Sometimes young players ... when he came out he rose so fast at Marshall, sometimes what happens is they’re not ready for that, they’re not ready for the NBA and everything that comes with it, and they think once they’re there everything is going to fall into place. So, I think more than anything he has matured and he has paid dues."

Whiteside flamed out of the D-League following his release from the Kings and he bounced around Lebanon and China before returning to the D-League for a second time. It was during his second D-League experience that the Heat took notice and invited him for a workout. Whiteside then dominated the Heat's D-League team during a game and the Heat signed him the following day.

"I’ve always been a guy that when you go through whether it’s Europe or the minor leagues, you pay those dues and you have a better respect for the game when you get another opportunity," Saunders said. "And, like I said, going to Miami and Pat [Riley] and [Erik Spoelstra] and those guys, that’s a perfect situation for him because they have had success there, they know what it is, they know what it takes for somebody to be successful, and they’re not going to bend at all. They’re going to make sure you’re disciplined and you play the way that it needs to be played and play the right way."

Friday, January 30, 2015

Hassan Whiteside, @NBA2K and my journey into video-game journalism

So, just a note — a pro tip, as they say nowadays — to all you would-be video-game journalists out there. Do not start an interview with two video-game producers by telling them you don't "really play video games anymore."

This is offensive, and should be avoided.

That's how I started my phone interview with the guys who upgraded Hassan Whiteside's player rating for NBA2K after Whiteside's triple-dozen against the Chicago Bulls. I was going for a full-disclosure type of admission — in the hopes of reporting some details I otherwise might have missed — but really it just made for the type of phone-conversation awkwardness that this age of text messengers can't fully appreciate.

[UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE]

[FORCED LAUGHTER]

[MUTUALLY THANKFUL CHANGING OF THE SUBJECT]

Of course, I do still play video games. I have Tetris on my iPhone, and I'm still, after all these years, like the Andre Miller of Ms. Pac-Man...

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 12.09.54 PM

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 12.11.54 PM

But real-life video-game producers don't want to hear about your Ms. Pac-Man skills, so I left that part out, and went straight into learning a little bit about these guys, and why they would cave to Whiteside's very public, overtly passive-aggressive request for an upgrade of his video-game self ... and other stuff, like, how common is a player-rating upgrade, and, what teams are the producers of NBA2K15 fans of?

Brace yourselves Heat fans...

THE PRODUCERS

Growing up in Iowa, Zach Timmerman didn’t have a pro basketball team in his home state. Like most kids in the Midwest without a specific team, he was a Chicago Bulls fan back in the day.

Michael Stauffer, who works with Timmerman on the video game NBA2K, loves everything Ohio, and that includes the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In other words, neither Timmerman nor Stauffer were exactly celebrating last Sunday while Whiteside was giving his best impersonation of Wilt Chamberlain against the Bulls. Still, Timmerman and Stauffer know talent when they see it, and they’re both dedicated to creating the most authentic basketball video game possible. Before Whiteside even mentioned his player rating on national television, both Timmerman and Stauffer were already on the case.

“Mike went immediately to work when that game was happening,” Timmerman said.

Indeed, he did.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 2.52.40 PM

Timmerman and Stauffer are both producers of NBA2K, the hugely popular video game that, for many, is just as much a part of the NBA culture now as Adidas, Jordans or TNT. That means they pretty much play God each week as they update details of the video game. Young NBA players love the game just as much as young NBA fans, and some players, like Whiteside, are keenly aware of their current player ratings. Whiteside, for example, had been stewing over his video-game player rating since 2011. 

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 3.00.24 PM

OK, so let me backtrack here for those who aren't familiar with modern-day video games. I'm going to skip over the few years of technological advancements between Ms. Pac-Man and present-day gaming, gloss over some details and explain it all in two sentence. Most video-game consoles these days are wired to the Internet, which means some video games are constantly being updated and improved for gamers. So, for example, one day Dwyane Wade is in the starting lineup for the Heat in NBA2K, and then the next day, following a hamstring injury, Wade is out and unavailable.

In other words, lots of updates just to keep up with Wade's hammies.

If you want to be more specific, let' say one day J.R. Smith is with the New Knicks and then the next day he's with the Cavaliers...and not only does Smith switch teams on the video game, but his right elbow band has been removed, a left elbow small band has been added and, oh yeah, now Smith is wearing Nike LeBron XIIs because, well, that's what's happening in real life.

Timmerman and Stauffer think of everything, and just so they don't miss anything happening in the league on a daily basis, they constantly take suggestions and tips from basketball fans on Twitter. They also consult with teams and players while they're developing next year's game.

In other words, these guys know their stuff down to box-out defense, and help-side defense, and lateral quickness, and offensive consistency and shot-selection IQ, and on and on and on.

"It engulfs your life," Stauffer said.

That's where player ratings come in. What’s a player rating? It’s basically the aggregated numerical value of a player's video game basketball skills based on a rating system of zero to 100. Each individual skill gets a player rating and then the average of all those skill ratings is a player's overall rating.

According to Timmerman and Stauffer, Whiteside’s player rating was 69 when he first showed up on the Heat’s roster this season. On Sunday, Whiteside’s player rating was increased to a 77.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 2.50.25 PM

Whiteside's block rating was elevated to a 95 following his game against the Bulls. Did that rating go down after Whiteside failed to block a shot against the Bucks? No clue. Go buy the game.

Now, there's this whole business of ethics in video-game journalism. I hear it's a big deal, but, I don't really care about it. Sure, I can see how it would be important when it comes to reviewing games and stuff like that, but, personally, I don't need to actually play NBA 2K15 to know it's probably pretty fun. One interview with the producers had me convinced of that much. I suppose an important question a gamer might want to know from the producers of a game is how they stay objective when they're handing out ratings.

I didn't ask that question. I just assumed the whole anecdote about Timmerman and Stauffer being fans of the Bulls and Cavs, respectively, would spell that out. I did, however, ask what Whiteside could do to make his player rating go down a few points.

"If he starts shooting pull-up three balls," Stauffer said.

"Let's hope he doesn't do that," added Timmerman.

Pat Riley agrees.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

STORY: Dwyane Wade out indefinitely

Dwyane Wade knew as soon as it happened. This latest injury might take longer than usual to heal.

Calling a sudden news conference on Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena, Wade told reporters, “I won’t be seeing y’all for a little while, so take a good look at this face.” The shooting guard strained his hamstring on Tuesday night in the Heat’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, and he said the best-case scenario for his return would be two to three weeks. That means Wade would miss the All-Star game if he is picked as a reserve, and also miss Heat’s road game against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb.11.

“You can’t put a time on it,” Wade said. “You can’t look at the hamstring and say you’re going to be out this amount of games. Like many muscle strains, you’ve got to go day-by-day.”

This is Wade’s third leg injury of the season. He strained his left hamstring earlier in the season and missed seven games. He then tweaked the back of his left leg again two weeks ago and missed two games. He has missed 10 of the Heat’s 45 games so far this season. Wade missed 28 games last season.

“Where this thing has me is frustrated and where I stand I have no idea,” Wade said. “It’s just the second day of a pulled hamstring."

Wade’s injury initially occurred in the third quarter while he was tracking back on defense during a fast-break dunk by Brandon Knight. He remained in the game and then injured it further during a routine defensive play.

“I was chasing [Khris] Middleton, and then it just went,” Wade said.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dinners with Alonzo Mourning and every day with Juwan Howard: Heat center Hassan Whiteside surrounded by mentors

Win or lose tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks, Heat center Hassan Whiteside already has dinner plans for after the game.

Heat vice president and basketball hall of famer Alonzo Mourning invited Whiteside to dinner on Tuesday presumably to congratulate the Heat’s new center on setting the franchise’s single-game record for blocked shots. Whiteside had 12 blocks against the Bulls on Sunday and Mourning held the previous record with nine. Mourning spoke briefly with Whiteside on Tuesday morning.

“He told me good job,” Whiteside said. “He was excited. I haven’t really talked to him about it too much.”

Mourning has taken an active role in mentoring Whiteside, the Heat’s 25-year-old center who was playing in the D-League in November before signing with the Heat. Whiteside and Mourning meet often for dinner.

The Heat plays the Bucks at 7 p.m. at AmericanAirlines Arena. Whiteside will be back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench on Sunday and recording a “triple-dozen” — 14 points, 13 rebounds and 12 blocks — in 25 minutes. Chris Andersen is questionable for tonight’s game after straining his back on Sunday. Luol Deng is doubtful after injuring his calf against the Bulls.

Mourning is guiding Whiteside through his first taste of stardom in the NBA, but Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard has been Whiteside’s biggest and most consistent influence since November. Howard works with Whiteside daily and is teaching the young center the proper work habits to thrive in the NBA long term.

“I just work out with Juwan a lot,” Whiteside said. “He’s a great guy. He played 19 years in the league and there’s not too many guys who can say that. He just really talks to me every day about the concept of where to be and where not to be as a big man on the court.”


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