James Johnson was held out of the Heat’s starting lineup on Wednesday night with right knee tendinitis.
Johnson played only 24 minutes and went 0 for 3 shooting on Monday in the Heat’s 125-122 overtime loss to the T’Wolves. Johnson, who was averaging 12.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 27.8 minutes per game, had started the past five games.
Okaro White made his first career start in his place, and Hassan Whiteside returned after missing the past five games with bone bruise in his left knee.
The two started alongside Dion Waiters, Goran Dragic and Josh Richardson.
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White (6-8, 215 pounds), a second-year forward, suffered a shoulder strain late in the preseason, but played in his second game of the season on Monday. He finished with six points and a rebound and contributed to a third quarter surge in which the Heat took a brief three-point lead heading into the final quarter.
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Whiteside played 36 minutes against Orlando - the game in which he suffered the bone bruise when colliding knees with the Magic’s Nikola Vucevic. Whiteside finished with 26 points and 22 rebounds that night.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Whiteside probably wouldn’t play as many minutes as he did in the team’s season opener Oct. 18 against Orlando.
"We’re going to put him right in and then just see how many minutes he can go," Spoelstra said after Wednesday’s shootaround. "I don’t think he’ll play anywhere near the same amount of minutes he did on opening night. But the game will dictate it and how he feels."
Whiteside missed only five games all of last season.
No matter how much he plays, Whiteside’s defensive presence has been sorely missed by the Heat, whose defensive numbers have dropped from last season through the first six games.
The Heat, which ranked fifth in points allowed last season (102.1), entered Wednesday’s game ranked 23rd (109.2) so far. Miami has also gone from seventh in field goal percentage allowed (45) to 27th (46.9).
Whiteside led the NBA in rebounding last season averaging 14.1 per game and ranked fourth in blocks per game (2.10). He also ranked fourth in scoring among centers (17.0 points per game) behind only Karl-Anthony Towns (25.1), Brook Lopez (20.5) and Marc Gasol (19.5).
"I wouldn’t be surprised if he can get back to his 20 [points], 20 [rebounds] self early," Udonis Haslem said. "He’s a walking double double, but obviously he’s the anchor of our defense and right now we need to get back to playing Miami Heat defense."
"We understand that offense is a work in progress with continuity and guys just understanding their roles and getting more comfortable but our defense has always been a pillar of what we stand for and our success. We definitely have to get back to defending and what better way to do that is to get the best run defender in the NBA."
Even with Whiteside back Bam Adebayo may continue to get a fair amount of minutes.
Adebayo recorded a double-double on Monday (13 points and 13 rebounds) while mostly matching up against fellow University of Kentucky alum Karl-Anthony Towns.
"It was just me being active, just crashing the glass," Adebayo said. "Hassan was like, ‘You’re already in the paint, might as well grab a couple rebounds.’ So just being active on the glass, just timing the ball the way it hits off the rim and just go and get it."
Adebayo is keeping himself ready for significant minutes even after Whiteside is back in the starting lineup. Adebayo played only six minutes against Orlando in Whiteside’s only game this season.
"Anything happens, just always be ready when your name is called," Adebayo said. "If he does play or if he doesn’t play, I’m just going into the game with the same mindset I had in the three games before and just see what happens."