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."