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Wade-Whiteside alley-oop dunks evoking memories of Wade-Shaq connection

With a little over two minutes to go in the fourth quarter Sunday night Hassan Whiteside blocked a James Harden three-point attempt and began racing up the court on the fastbreak for what looked like was going to be a highlight-reel dunk. 

The 7-foot center threw the ball off the top of the backboard, but never followed through with the dunk because refs had whistled the play dead due to a Rockets' shot-clock violation.

"I was going to throw it off the backboard or get Rio to throw it off the backboard -- do something for the fans," Whiteside said. "It was a big dunk on the way."

Whatever it was Heat fans didn't get a chance to see, Whiteside more than made up for it Sunday with six of his 12 baskets coming via thunderous slams. Three of those dunks were of the alley-oop variety on lobs from guard Dwyane Wade, who continues to be Whiteside's best friend on the court.

When Miami's young center sees Wade with the ball, he knows it's showtime -- kind of like when Wade used to play with another dominant center named Shaquille O'Neal. Wade and O'Neal terrorized opposing teams a decade ago when Wade would either drive to the basket for a bucket of his own or lob it to O'Neal for the slam.

Now, Whiteside has become Wade's new lob partner. 

"When it comes to guarding a big, playing together, pick and rolls, I thought me and Shaq did a great job of that," Wade said Monday after practice. "It's just a read of how the [other team's] big is guarding you and if you're big man is rolling to the rim it puts the pressure on the defense to make a decision. Is he going to come up on the ball? Is he going to go back to the big? Or is he going to go back to the middle and let me make a decision from there? I think I'm a pretty good decision maker in that point and I'm just trying to get Hassan to understand that and know that that game can be very deadly."

It was deadly for Houston on Saturday. Now, it could be deadly for the rest of the NBA as Wade and Whiteside continue to develop that chemistry.

"Hassan knows. He gets it now," Wade said. "He understands when I get the ball his eyes light up. I can see him. Like I said, we started off a little slow earlier. Preseason is a bad indication of what you can do because everybody is trying to get a rhythm, trying to get involved. But I can see now the rhythm is coming back from last year. I can feel it coming back now."

The dunk is obviously Whiteside's best weapon. According to CBSSports.com, he's tied for the league league in dunks with eight. When it comes to scoring within five feet of the basket, only the Clippers' Blake Griffin (17), Thunder's Russell Westbrook (15) and Pistons Andre Drummond (15) have more buckets than Whiteside's 14 so far.

Whiteside said playing with a gifted passer like Wade is a treat. He still can't believe it's now him on the receiving end of those Wade lobs near the basket.

"I remember watching them in high school when they were playing and now I'm playing with him," Whiteside said. "It's surreal. I mean, who didn't watch Shaq and D-Wade? I was practicing it on my
little hoop outside. It's crazy that it's actually happening now with me."

The trick for Whiteside is figuring out when Wade is going to actually lob him the ball. But he says he's getting better at it.

"His shot and his alley-oop look exactly the same," Whiteside said. "A lot of times you see me jump late because I don't know. I never know when he's going to throw it. He don't look at you. He's like looking at the basket."

Wade said making his lob look like his shot is the entire key to the play's success.

"That's the whole purpose of why it works," Wade said. "You don't know what it is. Obviously he's long enough to be able to jump after the pass. But that's why it works because it looks just like my floater. That's something we have to work on and still work on in practice. Today, I got him. He thought I was shooting a floater to score. It's just a feel. For me, I'm learning him as well. Last year we had a couple miscommunications. This year's we're better on our lob opportunities with me just learning where he likes the ball as well."




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