Hassan Whiteside said “only time will tell” how much better the Detroit Pistons truly are after making a stunning blockbuster trade earlier this week to acquire five-time All-Star Blake Griffin.
But he does know one thing: “I’m glad he’s with a team that wants him,” Whiteside said.
Whiteside, whose name has been bandied about in trade rumors and who has drawn interest from the Milwaukee Bucks, according to Basketball Insiders, is represented by the same agency as Griffin, Excel Sports Management.
After facing the 76ers on Friday, the Heat play Saturday night in Detroit.
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“He’s a nice guy,” Whiteside said of Griffin, who has averaged a career-high 23.9 points, 10.8 rebounds [second-most against any NBA team] and 3.8 assists in 11 career games against the Heat [he’s 5-6 versus Miami all-time].
“He’s a talented player,” Whiteside continued. “Unfortunately, he got injured [in the past]. But I’ve seen his work ethic. He’s going to continue to keep getting better.
“I think [the trade] shocked a lot of people. Me and Blake are with the same agency. I believe him when he says he was actually shocked about it. It’s good he’s with a team that he feels like he can move on with. Even Avery Bradley and them guys going to the Clippers. The thing about trades is, somebody has to want you. [The Pistons and Clippers] felt like it was even.”
Whiteside, who is in the second year of a four-year, $98 million deal with the Heat, has seen his role fluctuate with Miami (29-22) all season.
He’s averaging 14.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 25.8 minutes per game, nearly seven minutes fewer than he averaged last season. He says most of that has to do with the additions the Heat made in the frontcourt: signing Kelly Olynyk and drafting Bam Adebayo.
There are games Whiteside has been the central focus of the Heat’s offense — like Monday’s win in Dallas when he had 25 points and 14 rebounds and took 15 shots in 26 minutes.
“Those are them great games,” Whiteside said with a smile.
Then there are other times when he hasn’t played at all in the fourth quarter or taken only a handful of shots all game — like Wednesday’s loss in Cleveland when Whiteside had nine points, eight rebounds and only four field goal attempts in 24 minutes.
How has he handled the instability?
“I try to do what’s best for the team,” Whiteside said. “A lot of the times when I don’t get that many shots it could be the [other team’s] scheme. They could be packing the paint. Then I’m trying to get the win. Some games, guys are going better than others. There’s sometimes I was trying to force it to Wayne [Ellington] because he was knocking down a lot of shots and I was just trying to keep it going.”
Does he ever go to coach Erik Spoelstra or to his teammates and demand the ball because he has a favorable matchup?
“I mean, I always feel I’ve got a good matchup,” Whiteside said. “I always go to Spo and tell them guys to throw it down there. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. I have no control over that.”
▪ Whiteside said the fact Griffin learned of his trade to Detroit on Twitter was “a tough way to find out.” James Johnson said it’s just part of the business.
“I take it as what it is,” Johnson said. “It’s a business. I don’t think they owe anybody any explanations. Just like when you want to be traded. I think it goes both ways. A player could want to be traded or a team or organization could want to trade somebody. There’s no explanation needed. Both parties are grown. Both parties are business people. [The Clippers] did what was best for the team.
“I think teams are making moves to really be successful and really win. That’s it. I don’t pay too much attention to them. I’m happy all of our guys are still here so far. That shows what we’re doing and who we are as a team.”
The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 8.