Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside entered the NBA playoffs grumbling about his diminished role on the team, and the proceeded to give his squad absolutely nothing of value while playing limited minutes in the first two games of their series against the Sixers. But last night offered a chance for redemption, as Joel Embiid returned to the lineup for Philadelphia.
Much of Whiteside’s disappearance from the first two games could be blamed on the fact that the Sixers played so small, rendering the big man a matchup disaster. With Embiid rumbling back into the series, though, Miami finally had a use for Whiteside’s size and playing style. If he could successfully bang away with Embiid in the paint, gobble up rebounds, and protect the rim, he could swing the series in Miami’s favor. He did none of those things.
Whiteside got pushed around by Embiid and was in foul trouble basically from the moment the game started. Embiid finished with 23 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes, and Whiteside countered with a pathetic five points and two rebounds in 13 minutes. It didn’t help matters that Embiid already has a history of publicly clowning on Whiteside, and was doing so again last night:
Whiteside’s numbers, bad as they are, don’t even really capture just how poor he was. He looked defeated and out of it, like he expected things to go badly. After the game, he essentially admitted to reporters that he’s been having a hard time staying in engaged during the series, and blamed it on the fact that he’s not as involved in the offense as he used to be. From ESPN:
“It’s just different, man. I feel like our offense is a lot different. I’m not as involved in as many dribble handoffs as I was and post-ups as I was in the regular season,” Whiteside said after scoring five points in 13 minutes in Miami’s Game 3 loss to Philadelphia. “That’s what coach [Erik Spoelstra] wants. Coach wants me to just be in the corner and set picks. That’s what he wants. I’ve just got to trust it.”
Maybe Whiteside is right that he’s not getting as many touches as he used to or is entitled to, but full satisfaction with your role on the team should not be a requirement for playing with your head screwed on straight during the goddamn NBA playoffs. I mean, take a look at Whiteside’s final contributions to the Game 3 loss:
That’s even worse!
It’s hard to imagine Erik Spoelstra, or any coach, looking at those two plays and the overall malaise with which Whiteside has conducted himself and concluding that, yes, that’s a dude who needs to be more involved.
The Sixers are really goddamn good, and the Heat don’t have time to spend reinventing their system so that their bummed-out center will stop playing like he’s on quaaludes. They just need to win games, and Hassan Whiteside either needs to help them do that or get out of the way.