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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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