Hassan Whiteside didn’t think much of the discomfort in his right knee when he boarded the Heat’s plane headed home from Washington on Sunday night.
But by the time he woke up Monday morning it was a different story.
“I really felt a lot of pain when I woke up, my first couple steps to the bathroom,” the Heat’s 7-foot center said after he missed his first game of the season Monday, a thrilling 103-100 overtime win over the visiting Indiana Pacers.
“It’s just a lot of soreness right now,” he continued. “I really felt like I couldn’t really do anything as far as running or jumping.”
The question now for the Heat (21-13) is whether this is just knee soreness or something that could keep the NBA’s leading shot-blocker (4.0) and fourth-leading rebounder (11.3) out longer.
On Tuesday, when it released its team notes for the media, the Heat listed Whiteside as questionable for Wednesday night’s game against the visiting New York Knicks (16-19).
On Monday, Whiteside said he knew earlier in the day he “really wasn’t that close to playing.” So he spent the afternoon and evening icing and undergoing treatment.
Although Whiteside said he doesn’t think it’s going to be a long-term issue, he also said he’s not really sure what the extent of the injury is or whether he will need an MRI.
“I’m kind of figuring that out,” he said when asked whether it might be a bone bruise, the same knee injury that has had forward Josh McRoberts out since he played five minutes against the Hornets on Dec. 9.
“It’s under the kneecap, around the patella tendon.”
As a rookie in 2011, Whiteside partially tore a tendon in his left knee and ended up missing the season. This, however, is his right knee.
Point guard Goran Dragic said Whiteside’s absence was felt Monday.
“With Whitey, probably it would be a different story,” he said of losing the rebounding battle to the Pacers. “He would probably block some shots and get at least 12, 15 rebounds. He is such a force down there. Every time we miss a shot, he’s there and he gives us that extra possession.”
Chris “Birdman” Andersen started in Whiteside’s place Monday and finished with two points and two rebounds in a little less than 10 minutes. Andersen, 37, drew his third foul with 4:40 left in the first quarter and stayed on the bench the rest of the half.
The Heat then turned to Amar’e Stoudemire, who played a season-high 15 minutes and finished with two points, five rebounds, a block and a steal. Stoudemire finished plus-3 and Andersen was a team-worst minus-24.
The Heat went with Chris Bosh at center and smaller lineups the rest of the game to make up for Whiteside’s absence.
“You miss a guy who is key like that,” guard Dwyane Wade said of Whiteside. “He has the ability to rebound the ball and protect the paint. Bird came in and did a great job, and other guys came in and filled in. This is the NBA, this is sports. People will miss games. You are only as good as the next guy who steps up and does his job.
“That is what happened [Monday]. We just want Hassan to get back on the court when he is ready and healthy enough to get back out there.”
▪ Dan Craig, who has been a part of the Heat organization for 13 seasons and the coach of the Heat’s summer-league team each of the past three years, was named the NBA’s Development League Coach of the Month for December after guiding the Sioux Falls SkyForce to a 9-1 record.
Wednesday: Knicks at Heat
When, where: 7 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena.
TV, radio: SUN, ESPN; WAXY (790), WAQI (710, Spanish).
Series: Knicks lead 59-51.
Scouting report: Miami won the first two meetings by 17 and 19 points respectively and has won a franchise-best eight consecutive games in the series. After Wednesday, the Heat will play 14 of its next 16 games on the road, with the only games in Miami vs. Milwaukee on Jan. 19 and vs. Atlanta on Jan. 31.