The Miami Heat’s up-and-down season took a swing up Sunday with a 96-84 road win over the Chicago Bulls. Even with a huge fourth quarter from Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng’s homecoming, the biggest story was the play of center Hassan Whiteside.
The 25-year-old seven-footer tormented the Bulls with a triple-double in just 24 minutes, finishing with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 12 blocks. It was the fastest triple-double including blocks in over 30 years, according to Basketball Reference. His 12 blocks in just over two quarters of work are just one less than Greg Oden had for the Heat in 219 minutes during the 2013-2014 regular season and playoffs.
Whiteside displayed every facet of his game at the highest ability on Sunday. He finished pick-and-rolls with furious dunks off lobs, and also flashed into the lane from the block when Miami guards penetrated into the lane for more easy scores. On defense, he blocked shots on attempted dunks, from post-ups, in help situations and even this chase-down block in semi-transition:
Rarely do big men in the NBA come out of nowhere and inflict the kind of damage Whiteside has in his short time. He jumped into first in the Eastern Conference in PER on Sunday. In his last 10 games, he’s averaging 12 points, eight boards and three blocks a game, while shooting 72 percent from the field.
Whiteside earned the post-game interview on national television with his performance against the Bulls, and didn’t disappoint there either:
Of course, his play comes with a heavy dose of small sample-size hesitation, but Sunday wasn’t his first big performance. Whiteside flashed very recently, scoring 10 points in 11 minutes against Oklahoma City this past Tuesday before leaving with a sprained ankle.
Heat fans have been titillated by Whiteside’s play for weeks, especially after a 23-point, 16-rebound performance in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 11. In an interview after that game, Whiteside called out Clippers coach Doc Rivers for not giving him a training camp invitation.
That attitude, a perceived immaturity and arrogance, is partly the reason Whiteside has failed to stick in his other NBA stops.
The Sacramento Kings drafted him in 2010, but an injury kept him out for most of his rookie year. He appeared in 18 games the next season, but was cut and toiled overseas and in the D-League until a desperate Miami team signed him this season. Even the Heat are trying to keep the center’s ego small, according to Miami Herald’s Joe Goodman.
Whiteside’s opportunity has come during a time when the Heat are in dire need for reliable role players, as well as a defensive anchor. Deng told Miami radio after the game that he recently told coach Erik Spoelstra finding Whiteside was “almost like we found gold.”
The trick now is for Whiteside to be able to sustain his play. Foul trouble could potentially become an issue. He had four on Sunday, and picked up two quick ones in his first seven minutes. Whiteside struggled a bit when matched with Taj Gibson on the block, and will need to work on his strength to finish at the rim through fouls.
For now, the Heat will take 20 minutes a game from Whiteside, and try to nudge him closer to 30 as the season goes on. However, don’t expect anyone to sub Whiteside out if his 2K rating reflects what he did on Sunday.