The 4-6 Miami Heat have struggled to gain traction early in the season, alternating losses and wins in their last four games. Last night’s defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors was marked not only by the Heat offense being stifled, but by its big man sitting on the bench for most of the second half as well.
* Recap: Warriors 97, Heat 80
Heat center Hassan Whiteside only played one minute and 13 seconds in the second half, as he was benched by coach Erik Spoelstra for a defensive lapse and for arguing with officials over an offensive foul call. Rookie Bam Adebayo finished out the game and afterward, Spoelstra, Whiteside and team captains James Johnson, Goran Dragic and Udonis Haslem addressed this benching. Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald has more:
“I guess he thought it was better if I didn’t come back in,” Whiteside responded when asked after the game whether he asked Spoelstra to let him back on the court. “Coach, playing me 16 minutes, I guess that’s what he wanted me to play. … Last game, I played 31 minutes. I thought I played great [Sunday versus the Clippers]. Today, I played 16 minutes. So I really don’t know what I’m going to play [Wednesday] in Phoenix.”
The last thing the Heat (4-6) needed in the middle of a six-game road trip was for arguably its most important player to take a step backward and display the kind of maturity issues that used to get him in trouble. But it happened, and now the most important thing for Whiteside is to come back with the right kind of attitude, his teammates said.
“Minutes is earned, man. Minutes is earned on this team,” co-captain James Johnson said. “We had our talk [with Whiteside] as we should as a team and as the three captains that we are. And he gets it, man. I know he gets it.”
“I mean it’s tough. He’s our main player,” Dragic said. “He’s protecting the paint. He’s getting offensive rebounds, blocked shots. But, we’re going to play with whoever we’ve got. I think Bam did an amazing job. He brought that energy that we needed. It’s tough. But you have so many games in this league and sometimes back-to-backs, sometimes your body doesn’t listen to you. But we have full confidence Hassan is going to be back and he’s going to be his old self again.”
“On the second night of a back-to-back, man, sometimes your body is not going to have it,” the 15-year veteran said. “That’s when you got to have it with your mind. I preach to these guys 48 minutes of mentally stable basketball and not be mental midgets. That’s just something we got to continue to work on. We’re probably in a different situation if every game we didn’t have those four or five-minute lapses where mentally we’re just out of it. And then we get it back and we’re just fighting, fighting, fighting. So like I said, from the first guy on the bench to the last guy on the bench, we just got to make sure we stay mentally stable and into it for 48 minutes. It doesn’t mean you’re going to play perfect basketball, but we have to have it up top for 48 minutes.”
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