Heat center Hassan Whiteside had his heart set on winning Defensive Player of the Year honors and was bitterly disappointed earlier this week when he finished third in the balloting.
His reaction Friday to placing ninth in the voting for the league’s Most Improved Player was markedly different.
“I didn’t think [anything] of it,” Whiteside said after the Heat wrapped up practice Friday at Time Warner Cable Arena in advance of Game 3 Saturday against the Hornets. “I told you all man, I [didn’t] expect to win. So I never thought about it.”
Portland’s C.J. McCollum took home the honor in runaway fashion, picking up 101 of the 130 first-place votes. Hornets guard Kemba Walker finished second.
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Whiteside, who has gone from a D-League project to leading the league in blocks in a season and a half with the Heat, earned one first-place vote from Palm Beach Post beat writer Jason Lieser.
“I’m playing on a team and we’re in the playoffs and we’re up two. So, everything is going well,” Whiteside said. “I’m going to go see my mom later. I get to see the family. Everything is great. I’m back home.”
Raised in nearby Gastonia, North Carolina, Whiteside said he has locked down 15 of the 20 tickets he needs to take care of family and friends who will be at Saturday’s game. He’s working on getting the other ones.
On Thursday, Whiteside took his teammates out to eat dinner at Queens City Barbeque in Charlotte.
“It was fire,” rookie Josh Richardson said of the food. “I had a brisket sandwich. It wasn’t the No. 1 barbeque restaurant I’ve been to, but very solid though. I’ve eaten at some good places in Alabama and Mississippi. But this place was up there though.”
The Heat wrapped up practice Friday listening to the tunes of Prince, the legendary musician who died Thursday at his home in Minnesota.
“It’s just something we wanted to do to recognize an incredible talent,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I grew up listening to Prince, the whole MTV generation. I remember my first AAU tournament I got my first Prince cassette and we sat in the back of the plane — 13-year-olds — and that’s all we did was play Prince songs. That whole trip in Arizona we played that one cassette.”
Dwyane Wade said he grew up listening to Prince and Michael Jackson. But his father was a big Prince fan.
“Obviously, this song right here [Purple Rain] is my favorite,” Wade said as the song played over the speakers inside the arena. “I remember being young and my Dad making me watch Purple Rain over and over and over. I thought that was the only movie on at the time.
“Obviously, everybody knows When Dove’s Cry. That’s a dope song. There are so many great ones.”
WADE ON THREES
Wade, a career 28.4 percent three-point shooter, had a good chuckle Friday when asked about his hesitation in Game 2 to shoot an open three-point shot.
“The ball came to me — I was about to shoot it — and I was like ‘Uh no,’ ” Wade said through a smile. “There’s this block in my mind. … I like my twos, I guess.”
Wade, who is 7 for 44 this season from three-point range (15.9 percent), hasn’t made a three-pointer since Dec. 16 at Brooklyn. He hass missed 21 consecutive three-pointers.
“I can shoot it,” Wade said. “The worst part about it is I’ve had games where I’ve shot a couple end of the shot-clock threes or a half-court three-pointer at the end of a quarter or half and I go 0 for 3. Now, [I’m] shooting 15 percent from three. But I haven’t shot any threes really. Take those away, and I’m about a good 30 percent career three-point shooter.”