Hassan Whiteside Has A Case Of Free Throw Yips

Illustration for article titled Hassan Whiteside Has A Case Of Free Throw Yips
Photo: Lynne Sladky (AP)

Hassan Whiteside did some cool things Wednesday night, in Miami’s narrow loss to the Toronto Raptors. He finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks in 31 minutes, and was a game-high plus-22. In the first quarter, with the Heat up nine and feeling frisky, Whiteside brought the ball up the floor off a Raptors miss and took several years off the life of Serge Ibaka:


Miami’s lead would grow as large as 17, but in the third quarter Toronto junked up the flow of the game by matching the Heat zone defense with a zone of their own, and the game briefly became a dismal jump-shooting contest, and the Raptors took control and came all the way back to win, by the score of 106–104. That two-point margin of defeat is made slightly more painful when you observe that the Heat went just 6-of-12 from the free-throw line; it’s presumably somewhat more painful for Whiteside, who missed all three of his attempts. Mostly this is all an excuse for observing the following genuinely horrifying statistic:

That’s a stretch that goes back through parts of 12 games; over his last 11 games he’s 5-of-35; over his last 12 games he’s 7-of-42. I can’t tell you for sure whether it’s the worst stretch of his career, but it sure seems like it must be: Whiteside is shooting a putrid 44.5 percent from the line this season, the worst he’s done since the 2011–2012 season, when he shot 41.7 percent over 18 total games. This season Whiteside’s a respectable 45th in the league in free throw attempts, with 119 on the season, but of the 420 players who’ve attempted at least 25 free throws, Whiteside is ranked dead last in accuracy. Not good.

At issue appears to be an adjustment Whiteside made after last season’s respectable showing, when he basically shot a jump-shot from the line and converted 70 percent of his tries. This season he went back to the standard flat-footed approach, and the results have been abysmal:

“With the free throws, I made the biggest mistake a pro can make,” Whiteside said. “I didn’t trust my routine. I was a 70 percent free-throw shooter last year, and I tried to critique it and I tried to change it and get outside of myself. And you know, that’s the worst thing I could have done.”

Whiteside told the Miami Herald the key would be getting back to the jumper approach. That was on December 20, before Miami’s game against the Houston Rockets. All he’s done in the four games since is go 2-of-13 from the line, so clearly everything is fine. Wednesday night against the Raptors, Whiteside was back to shooting them flat-footed, in perhaps a sign of just how screwed up and turned around he is in that area of his game—alternating shooting form game-to-game is some Markelle Fultz shit. The Heat are just a game under .500, and are currently eighth in the crummy Eastern Conference, with a razor-thin plus-four point differential on the season. Gotta make the freebies!

UPDATE: The dreaded he’s fine in practice:


Staff Writer, Deadspin