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Whiteside remains an enigma for the Heat

POSTED: Feb 10, 2016 1:16 PM ET

By TIM REYNOLDS

Associated Press

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Hassan Whiteside leads the NBA in blocked shots, ranks fifth league-wide in rebounds per game and has all three of Miami's triple-doubles this season.

That's a most impressive resume, all sure to help his cause this summer when he's in line for his first enormous contract.

Even so, his future in Miami is hardly guaranteed.

The enigmatic center has raised eyebrows around the team with some of his social-media posts, argued with the Heat stat crew during a game over his rebound total and usually isn't on the court in the final minutes of close matchups. And his most recent issue was Tuesday with him ejected for throwing an elbow in the fourth quarter against San Antonio.

"Sometimes," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said, "we don't know what he's thinking."

Whatever Whiteside was thinking on Tuesday when he threw the elbow to the head of San Antonio's Boban Marjanovic isn't known. Whiteside was sent home by team officials before reporters arrived in the locker room, and the Heat won't practice again until Feb. 17. That's one day before the NBA's trade deadline, and the Heat will have to decide whether to trade him now and try to get something back or risk losing him this summer for nothing.

Getting kicked out a game again - Tuesday's was his third ejection in 93 games with the Heat - doesn't help his cause.

"That's something that we'll deal with," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who wasn't hiding his displeasure.

Wade and took great pains during his postgame comments to hammer home the point that his teammates are still there for Whiteside and want to help him. They also want to be able to count on him, and that isn't always the case.

"You can always help a guy or try to give a guy advice," said Heat forward Chris Bosh, whose locker is next to Whiteside's and that means he's in his ear more than most. "People have given me advice over my career. I think the next step for him is really learning about reputation. Unfortunately, he's taken a step back."

Whiteside was picked up off the NBA's scrap heap by the Heat last season, and things eventually clicked like Miami had gotten a steal. No NBA player blocked more shots in regular-season games in 2015, and he had as many triple-doubles in those 12 months as LeBron James - only five players had more. A guy who had to play in Lebanon and China when no one in the NBA wanted him seemed like he finally arrived.

And he's had some games this season that were statistically impressive. He's gotten double-figure rebounds in 29 of his 45 games, at least five blocks in 16 games, shot 70 percent or better in 15 games.

But Miami has had 23 games this season in which there's been a margin of four points or less in the last two minutes. Whiteside has played in only eight of those games, according to STATS.

"Coach is going to make the decisions he's going to make," Whiteside said earlier this week. "I can't control that. He's the coach."

Whiteside's talent isn't questioned. But things like complaining about calls, lobbying for a better video-game rating, a penchant for in-game pouting and of late boasting that he was driving a car that could exceed 200 mph - though he never suggested he was driving that fast and only pointed to the speedometer display during one of his Snapchat videos - are all things the Heat are surely noticing.

Some team will probably give Whiteside a big contract this summer. It just might not be Miami, and if he makes it past the trade deadline the final 29 games of the Heat season could be his final chance to impress.

"He knows what he means to the team," Bosh said. "He knows that he has to keep his head in every situation. ... He wants to win. We just have to encourage him and keep telling him what it takes to win."