A year ago, being at a YMCA meant workout time for Hassan Whiteside as he wondered about his basketball future.
On Friday, Whiteside stood at the North Pointe YMCA’s pool in northwest Miami-Dade County before a bunch of kids as a big part of the Heat moving forward.
“The mind-set of knowing where I’m going to be this season,” Whiteside said when asked about the difference between now and 12 months ago. “I know who I’m going to be playing with, I know I’m playing with [Dwyane] Wade, [Chris] Bosh and those guys. In the past, I never knew who I was going to be playing with.”
Whiteside is secure in his immediate future as well as his swimming ability, having grown up with a pool and learning to swim at a preschool age. The latter is important as the Heat’s Learn to Swim water-safety campaign brought Whiteside to the Y as a surprise guest for the day campers during their regular swim lessons.
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Whiteside played off any talk of his long-term future, such as recent media speculation another good year would bring him an $18 million annual contract as a free agent following this coming season.
Whiteside was the breakout star of the 2014-15 post-LeBron Heat and is expected to be handsomely rewarded for that financially.
After being out of the NBA the previous two seasons — Whiteside spent time in the D-League as well as stints in China and Lebanon after being cut by Sacramento following its 2012 summer league — he averaged a double-double for the Heat last season with 11.8 points and 10 rebounds per night.
“I don’t get caught up in the numbers,” said Whiteside, who finished fourth in the league’s Most Improved Player award balloting. “I’m just excited I get to play with the Heat another year. I’m not really thinking about the numbers right now until free agency.”
Whiteside said he thought the offseason signings of forward Amar’e Stoudemire (“I looked up to him growing up”) and Gerald Green (“He can get hot really quickly”) gave the Heat more bench scoring.
After making the NBA Finals for four consecutive seasons then missing the playoffs this past spring, the Heat didn’t enjoy its long summer. Whiteside said he believes Miami has done plenty to improve itself. Whiteside should be a big part of that equation.
“As long as we stay healthy,” he said, “I feel like we can go really deeply into the playoffs.”
Miami Herald sportswriter George Richards contributed to this report.