If you have followed Hassan Whiteside on Snapchat during the past two weeks, you know the life of the 7-foot, 265-pound center has been anything but boring.
Hours after agreeing to a four-year, $98 million max contract to return to the Heat, Whiteside went to a zoo in New York City and spent a few hours talking to the animals.
“Big money man, all day,” Seattle Seahawks Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman can be heard telling Whiteside as the NBA’s leading shot-blocker last season filmed himself at the ESPYs.
One thing we haven’t seen yet on Snapchat is Whiteside going on a crazy spending spree.
On Thursday, while attending one of the Heat’s final Summer League games in Las Vegas, the 27-year-old former D-League project told the Palm Beach Post he really hasn’t celebrated his big contract yet other than going to the zoo — and that one of his first big purchases is going to be a house for his mother.
As for the upcoming Heat season, Whiteside knows there’s not only a lot of work to be done, but also a new set of expectations he has to live up to.
“It’s a good feeling,” Whiteside said of his new contract. “I know there’s a lot of expectations with that. But I’m excited going into the season.”
Miami’s roster has undergone a massive makeover this summer with 12-time All-Star Dwyane Wade returning home to Chicago and fellow starters Luol Deng (Los Angeles Lakers) and Joe Johnson (Utah Jazz) finding new teams.
So, the Heat will look to veteran point guard Goran Dragic, 11-time All-Star Chris Bosh (assuming he’s healthy and able to return to the court after dealing with blood clots) and Whiteside, who averaged 17.5 points, 13.3 rebounds and 3.4 blocks after the All-Star break last season, to help shoulder the load on a team that is much younger and replaced what it lost in free agency with a collection of role players.
Since the team’s “average age is like 25,” Whiteside said he’s planning on taking on more of a leadership role next season.
“I’m going to try to talk to the guys more,” he said. “I know UD [Udonis Haslem] can still be there and lead us and stuff. I can be there and stuff.”
Before free agency began, Heat team president Pat Riley called Whiteside the team’s No. 1 offseason priority. Riley then followed through, making sure the Heat was the first team Whiteside spoke with at 12:01 a.m. on July 1.
Whiteside said “it was a close decision” between the Heat and Dallas Mavericks, who made a strong push.
“I left the meetings at 3 a.m.,” Whiteside said. “I never thought I would be talking to them guys in the middle of the night, sitting in a meeting room. It was really something special.”
In the end, the Heat had $4 million more it could offer Whiteside than Dallas over the length of the contract. Ultimately, Whiteside said he chose to stay in Miami because he was “just more comfortable.”
“I didn’t really want to change teams,” he said. “I wasn’t ready to change teams.”
After making $981,348 last season and a little more than $3 million during his first four seasons in the NBA, Whiteside will earn $269,716 per game next season and $22.1 million by season’s end.
Riley said in May he was confident a big contract would not stop Whiteside from continuing to want to prove himself to the league and to play hard. Whiteside said he intends to live up to the contract.
“People are always going to try to look for negatives out of any situation,” he said. “I’ll never let people say, ‘I told you so about this kid.’ I’ve always been the type to try to prove people wrong. It drives me. I really don’t see this as the end of my journey. I just see it as a stepping-stone to even get better.
“I can take that next step — better training, better chefs, better diet. I really feel like it can help me out even more.”
Whiteside said he has been working on his dribbling, his jump shot and his post moves this summer. With plenty of youth and athleticism on the roster, the Heat is expected to be a team that pushes the pace a lot more than it has in the past, and Whiteside wants to be a bigger part of that.
“I want to get the rebound and push it a little better in transition,” he said. “I’m not trying to say I’m going to be Goran Dragic or anything, but I just feel like a couple dribbles up the court, it could help speed up our offense.”
As for his relationship with Dragic, Whiteside said he felt like they got better as the year progressed last season. He’s looking forward to more lobs and connections.
“He’s easy to talk to. He’s a really good point guard,” Whiteside said. “I feel like next year it’s going to be even better. It’s going to be more of me and Goran communicating on that basketball level and getting to know each other even better.”
Whiteside called Wade’s loss “disappointing,” but said as long as he’s happy and “dinner’s on him in Chicago everything is great.”