Hassan Whiteside, the NBA’s leading rebounder, recognizes he needs to step up his overall effort and play on both ends of the court in order for the Miami Heat to reverse course and secure a win on the road tonight against the Houston Rockets.
Miami’s final game before the All-Star break comes at a crossroads of sorts for the season. Beat the Houston Rockets again, as they did to kickstart their incredible win streak last month, and they can finish at a respectable 25-32 (considering where they were in the standings before the streak) at the break or lose again to make it three in a row while putting themselves that much further away from playoff contention.
Tensions apparently ran high in the AmericanAirlines Arena locker room after their latest setback against the Orlando Magic on Monday. Counting the road loss against the Philadelphia 76ers that ended their win streak, the Heat yielded a ghastly 233 total points to their opponents, including a 31.0 point average in the fourth quarter. However, Whiteside insisted it was mostly a matter of unfamiliarity after such a lengthy winning streak.
“There was (some tension),” Whiteside said at Tuesday’s practice. “When a team hasn’t lost in almost a month, guys forgot what it felt like to lose a game. I think that pain came back and it was a day we forgot about for a while. So it’s okay though, it’s not the end of the world, we lost two games. Let’s come out here and get the next one.”
While Whiteside finished with a decent stat line of 12 points and 19 rebounds each in both games, he had just one block against the Sixers and failed to dominate on offense or defense despite the absence of big men Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor. Beyond the box score however, a sustained effort and tenacity just wasn’t evident.
“I don’t have a level,” he said in response to his recent play. “I don’t have a limit and I always put expectations above just setting a level for myself because you can always push yourself more. That’s why I don’t really put a limit on myself.”
He insisted he wasn’t affected by Spoelstra quickly taking him out of the game against the Magic.
“It didn’t really bother me,” he said. “Spo is going to make his decisions and I just listen to him.”
Whiteside was a key part of the win streak however and not only is he leading the NBA in rebounds with 14.1 per game but is also fourth in blocks (2.04), seventh in double-doubles (35 games) and in the top 10 in field goal percentage. With Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love sidelined for several weeks after knee surgery, Whiteside is in the running to take his spot as an Eastern Conference All-Star. Those chances improved with the news today that Embiid will also not participate in any All-Star events.
“It would be awesome to go to the All-Star,” he said. “If I don’t go, I’m going to go on vacation and rest my body. So either way, I’m blessed beyond belief. It’s a win-win for me. Coming from where I came from, to say I got a choice between being an All-Star or going on a resort vacation is unreal. I mean, just thinking about what I said. It’s crazy.”