In their first game in Miami for 2015, the Heat faced the Brooklyn Nets in what swung from a lethargic opening to showcasing the potential of Hassan Whiteside.
Hassan, in only his 10th game for Miami, brought an energy to a side reminiscent of Chris Andersen's arrival in early 2013. Back in 2013, Birdman was this athletic finisher and rim protector around the basket that Heat were craving. Roy Hibbert even stated in the playoffs that year the big difference in the Heat from the previous year was the addition of Andersen.
While Whiteside has quite a ways to go to reach that level of being an impact role player, the potential has been on display. We saw that Sunday night when he basically injected the game with energy and athleticism. He can look lost on defense and out of place with spacing on offense because he's so new to the Heat, but when he's focused in on the task at hand, he can change stretches of the game.
The hardest thing for an inexperienced big man (30 career games) to learn in the NBA is how to consistently use their size to their advantage. While he only played four games in the D-League this season prior to the Heat calling him up, those four games showed dominating efforts that we just haven't seen from him at any level since declaring for the draft in 2010. It's unlikely he will dominate like that at the NBA level but drawing on those experiences to help him understand how to use his body effectively is as instrumental to his development as anything the coaching staff can teach him.
With a career night of 11 points (second highest total of his career), 10 rebounds (tied for career-high), and an NBA career-high 5 blocks, Whiteside troubled Brook Lopez in the post against Brooklyn and showed his often spoken about commitment. Not once did Whiteside take possessions off while defending the Heat's basket. He challenged everything he could get to. Time and time again he put his body on the line, which has been a consistent effort in his recent games.
For this season in Miami, size does matter. Could Whiteside be the what the Heat have been after? After failed experiments (think Dexter Pitman, Erick Dampier, Greg Oden, etc.), the light could now be shining on Whiteside.
At only 25 years and the knowledge of what it's like not being in the NBA (this time last year he was playing in Lebanon), this could very well be the interior find Pat Riley has been looking for over the years.
In case you missed it, some key Whiteside moments.
Ennis to Whiteside for the jam https://t.co/mOkUgSmF4Y— Hayley Byrnes (@haylohaylz) January 5, 2015
Heat players with a double-double (points & rebounds) and at least 5 blocks in 30 minutes or less: Shaq, Zo (twice), and Hassan Whiteside.— Hayley Byrnes (@haylohaylz) January 5, 2015
BOOYAH https://t.co/MBMTKoouSW— Hayley Byrnes (@haylohaylz) January 5, 2015