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Hassan Whiteside expected to return tonight against Chicago Bulls

From NBA media reports

Center Hassan Whiteside has missed the last nine straight games because of his hip injury. The Miami Heat will have their standout big man back in the lineup against the Chicago Bulls (7:30 ET, NBA League Pass).

Whiteside, who has been suffering from a strained left hip flexor, practiced with the Heat yesterday. Overall, Miami has gone 5-4 without Whiteside during his recent absence and they are 14-14 overall this season when he does not suit up. According to Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Whiteside both sounded optimistic about a return tonight:

“We’ll see [if he plays Thursday]. He’s put in quite a few days of good work,” Spoelstra said. “This was his first real court work and competitive live work and we’ll just have to see how he feels [Thursday] and take the next step.”

Whiteside, who was hurt during shootaround before the Wizards game on March 10, said he’s no longer experiencing pain but said the strain makes it tough for him to lift his leg.

“It might be some limitations once I come back regardless, just to get me into the flow of things,” Whiteside said. “I never had a hip flexor strain. Any time you get a strain, those things can get worse and they can linger… you can make it worse, so it’s not something you want to try to play through.”

With seven games left in the regular season, the Heat plays its next five games against non-playoff teams. Dwyane Wade said “it would be great” to have Whiteside back at some point during that stretch as the team prepares for the playoffs. The Heat is seeded seventh in the East, a half game in front of Milwaukee.

“To get him back out there whenever that time is and get his wind going and get his confidence back and get familiarity back with the team [would be great],” Wade said. “It’s like when you miss time, sometimes you come back and the team is playing a whole other different way and you kind of got to get back in the groove of that. But definitely, to get our big guy back is a plus.”

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