Fresh challenge now for Whiteside
Heat want more points from center
MIAMI — The initial challenge to Hassan Whiteside this week came from Erik Spoelstra, of what the Miami Heat coach would like to see next from his lengthy big man.
“Certainly,” Spoelstra said, “his ability to post up efficiently within the context of an offense and to be able to make the right reads and to be able to have a consistent go-to move down there.
“That will require sweat equity and putting in the time in the gym.”
Then, two days later, another challenge was issued, this time by Heat President Pat Riley . . . and it might have been issued as much to coach as to center.
Discussing howthe player he rewarded with a four-year, $98 million contract last July could take the next step, Riley mentioned Whiteside increasing his scoring average from 17 to 25 points going forward, among other statistical jumps.
“And,” Riley said, “I think he can be that.” With a caveat. “But,” Riley said, “you have to carve out something more for him offensively.”
This was the rare time when Whiteside as a scorer became a Heat talking point without
Whiteside doing the talking.
Just a week earlier, as the Heat were falling short in their scramble for a playoff berth, the focus had turned to the Heat’s late-game approach, with limited touches for Whiteside in those situations.
Now the questions have turned to whether Whiteside has to show more to be rewarded with those opportunities, or whether a volume of touches will provide its own reward.
“We’re going to need a championship center,” Riley said. “I think he has the capability of being that. I do think that now we know him across the board in every aspect and he also understands his responsibilities.
“Erik and I, we discuss a lot of things about Hassan and how he can better help us.”
That’s when Riley mentioned carving out more for Whiteside, with post-first having been Riley’s approach while coaching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal.
“Once you feed him that, he may be able to go there,” Riley said of Whiteside increasing productivity through increased touches, “but you have to put him in that position. I think he has the ability to put up bigger numbers.
“Will those bigger numbers equal wins? That’s what we have to get out of him. We have to get that kind of performance out of him.”
And, Riley said, the performances have to come in the biggest moments.
“We have to those 30 and 20 and 10 nights out of him five times a year,” Riley said. “And you have to get him on those nights we play big games.”
To Spoelstra, those opportunities can come organically. Through organic growth.
“He was emotionally invested in the well-being of his teammates and really wanted his teammates to succeed,” Spoelstra said of a major stride already taken. “That then translated into him really wanting to impact winning and to dominate the paint on both ends for his teammates. That was powerful. That also catapulted into an extremely high level of basketball.
“We want to continue to leverage that. Yes, he had a lot of teachable moments. He had some very toughlove teachable moments the first couple of years, some of that this year, but more growth in other areas in wanting his team to win and learning how to help the team win and all the detail areas and effort and discipline areas.”
The views on how that happens might be divergent, but the goals remain common: The Heat take the next step when Whiteside makes the next step.
“He can be as good as he commits and wants to be,” Spoelstra said. “That’s exciting for this franchise and I don’t see any reason why he can’t continue to improve the way he has each of the last three years.”
“We’re going to need a championship center. I think he has the capability of being that. ...” Pat Riley, Heat president
Hassan Whiteside can get into the mid-20s scoring per game, according to president Pat Riley.