Hassan Whiteside decided he’s had enough of moving around and that his future belongs to the Miami Heat.
The league’s leading shot blocker announced his decision shortly after 7:30 a.m. Friday morning with a 10-second video clip on his Snapchat account and a post on The Players’ Tribune website.
“I’ve played on eight teams since college — from Reno to Sioux Falls to Sichuan, China. I am not ready for there to be a ninth,” Whiteside, 27, penned on The Players’ Tribune website.
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“I have decided to re-sign with Miami. I just wanted to take this time to tell all the fans how much you mean to this team, and to me. Can’t wait to get back to work and try to bring another championship to Miami. #HeatNation”
A source familiar with terms of the agreement, said the Heat agreed to pay the 7-foot, 265-pound center a four-year contract worth the maximum Miami could offer, roughly $98 million including $22 million this coming season. But Whiteside, a source said, has left the Heat some wiggle room if Miami can convince Kevin Durant to sign with the team.
Whiteside, who had played overseas and in the NBA’s Development League before the Heat scooped him up in Jan. 2015, made $981,348 last season en route to finishing third in the league’s Defensive Player of the Year vote. It’s the first major contract of his career.
Many of his Heat teammates congratulated Whiteside after learning of the deal.
“Big big congrats to @youngwhiteside,” Heat free agent guard Dwyane Wade tweeted Friday from his vacation in Spain. “Your dedication and hard work to the game has finally paid off.” Wade ended his tweet with the hashtag, “Caniborrow5dollars.”
Chris Bosh, who has missed the second half of each of the last two sesaons with blood clots, said on Twitter: “Congrats to the big fella. Great to have you back bro!”
As promised, Heat team president Pat Riley was the first person Whiteside met with when the clock struck 12:01 a.m. and the NBA’s free agency period began.
After Whiteside initially left that meeting with the Heat without an agreement, he sat down with the Dallas Mavericks and owner Mark Cuban. Shortly after those meetings in a New York hotel ended around 4 a.m., Whiteside went to his Snapchat account to inform his followers “Free Agency decision coming soon on snap.” He followed up with, “I Will Post in the AM go to sleep.”
Then, a little more than three hours later, Whiteside, who posts plenty of entertaining content through his social media accounts, filmed a short video in his hotel room with his typical flair. In the video someone asks Whiteside, “Hey Cuz, where you gonna sign?” He then replies “Miami,” tosses his phone on the sofa and walks out the door of his room as Will Smith’s 1997 hit song Welcome to Miami plays in the background.
As much as the NBA game has moved further and further away from the basket and to prolific shooters, free agent centers across the league have landed huge contracts in the first 24 hours of free agency. Whiteside, who averaged 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.7 blocks last season, was among the best available. But others got paid handsomely, too.
Former Cleveland Cavaliers center Timofey Mozgov, who averaged 6.3 points, 4.4 rebound and 17.4 minutes per game last season, was the first big man to come off the board Friday morning. Mozgov came to an unexpected and quick four-year, $64 million agreement with the Los Angeles Lakers according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski less than an hour into free agency.
It was later reported by ESPN that Detroit’s Andre Drummond, a restricted free agent and All-Star, had agreed to sign a five-year, $130 million deal to stay with the Pistons.
Meanwhile, former Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, who missed 68 games and averaged just 6.3 points and 9.4 rebounds over the past two seasons, is expected to finalize a four-year, $72 million deal with the New York Knicks.
At first it looked like the Mavericks were the front-runners to land Whiteside. But Miami regained whatever footing it had lost to Dallas early in the courtship, according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowksi.
The Heat had told Whiteside before Friday it was very interested in keeping him but had a lot of moving parts to navigate through — including resigning Wade and chasing the top free agent out there in Durant, who Miami will also meet with Sunday in New York. The Vertical reported Riley and owner Micky Arison will represent the Heat in Sunday’s meeting with Durant in The Hamptons.
Miami had $42 million in cap space at the start of free agency. Although odds are slim the Heat will be able to convince Durant to play in Miami, the team could sign Durant to a max contract ($26.6 million) and fit him under the cap along with Whiteside and Wade if Josh McRoberts ($5.7 million) and Goran Dragic ($15.8 million) are traded away.
As it stands, Wade, who signed a one-year, $20 million deal last season, is looking to ensure himself a big payday, too. The 12-time All-Star, who has sacrificed money in the past to help the franchise sign LeBron James and others, is reportedly starting to gain interest from rival general managers.
Wojnarowski reported Friday morning Wade has received multiyear offers and teams are expected to speak with the 34-year-old on the phone Friday with the belief his contract impasse with the Heat could lead him to consider moving. ESPN reported Friday evening that Wade is in contract talks with the Knicks and Bucks and could schedule meetings next week.