Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside seemingly had moved past the questions about his temper and temperament, questions about whether he has the impulse control to restrain himself from doing something damaging when an opponent gets under his skin.
Then Tuesday night happened.
Though there have been more egregious Flagrant 2 fouls than the one that got Whiteside ejected against the Spurs, the Heat coaching staff, teammates and TNT announcers weren’t willing to gloss over it.
“That’s just Whiteside being Whiteside,” TNT’s Charles Barkley said, with Marv Albert, Reggie Miller and Chris Webber offering somewhat harsher analysis on the national game broadcast.
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Coach Erik Spoelstra made clear his disappointment, saying he doesn’t “condone” Whiteside swinging his elbow at Spurs center Boban Marjanovic and noting “we’ve been through this before with him.”
Dwyane Wade said he didn’t see the play but “it’s on him. That’s something he needs to deal with. … He’s been pretty good to this point. Everyone has a lapse in judgment, and obviously he had one. The biggest thing from him is you hope he just learns from it. You know, we said that last year.”
Whiteside’s incident marked the third time in a year, but the first time this season, that he has been ejected for a foul.
Last season, Whiteside, 26, was tossed from a March 9 game against Boston after leveling a forearm blow to the back of Kelly Olynyk’s back and neck. That incident occurred a week after Whiteside and Phoenix center Alex Len were ejected for an on-court altercation.
Tuesday’s flagrant foul occurred after a Spurs free throw with 9:35 left in the fourth quarter. Flagrant 2 fouls do not come with any automatic suspension, but the NBA reviews all fragrant fouls and can dole out additional punishment — a fine or suspension — if it wishes.
The Heat sent Whiteside home after the ejection because it did not want him discussing the matter with reporters.
“The one thing with Hassan is sometimes he goes quiet,” Wade said. “He goes to himself a lot. So as his teammates, sometimes it’s hard to know what he’s thinking. We’re all supposed to be in here for one common goal, and we’re all trying to reach that goal. But sometimes we don’t know what he’s thinking. But… we’re going to support him.”
Chris Bosh, meanwhile, said the “next step” for Whiteside “is really learning about reputation. Unfortunately, he’s taken a step back, whether it’s right or wrong. You have to build your reputation back up.
“He’s willing. We just have to encourage him and keep telling him what it takes to win. It wasn’t that much of an emotional game. We haven’t had emotional games yet. If you think that’s emotional, wait until March or April. … He knows what he means to this team and [that] he has to keep his head in every situation.”
Until this point, “he’s done great” this season with restraining himself, Bosh said. “We’ve been talking to him all summer and the preseason and during the season. It’s to the point we don’t have to tell him what we expect of him. We’re adults.”
HEAT GETS REST
Players are required to be given seven days off during the All-Star break, and the Heat will reconvene for practice Wednesday, then practice again next Thursday (the day of the trade deadline) before playing the Hawks Feb. 19 in Atlanta.
“We’ll analyze everything and push to see how we can improve this team,” Spoelstra said. “That’s my job.”
Spoelstra said he doesn’t want his players thinking about basketball for the first three days of the break.
▪ The Heat shot 57.1 percent in its 119-101 loss to the Spurs. According to Elias, that’s the most lopsided loss in NBA history by a home team that shot such a high percentage.
▪ Besides playing in Sunday’s All-Star Game in Toronto (along with Wade), Bosh also will participate in Saturday’s three-point contest.
“I practiced in my mind a couple times,” Bosh said. “I’m a whole different player than I was a few years ago. I didn’t even shoot threes. To be doing something totally different and actually be in a contest for it, it’s pretty cool.”
▪ Wade said the Heat’s decision to retire Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey at the start of next season “is fitting, only right. This organization’s championship level started when Shaq came here. Individually, he helped me become the player early in my career that I became.
“It’s a cool thing. It’s a very classy organization we have. No matter what was done or said over the years, there’s a respect factor for what he has brought to this organization.”