It’s a tragic comedy at this point.
Snake-bitten with injuries or illnesses since the beginning of the season, the Heat was without breakout center Hassan Whiteside on Friday night against the San Antonio Spurs. Whiteside missed the game with a sprained ankle after scoring 24 points and grabbing 20 rebounds against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, which made the injury all the more frustrating for a team that can’t seem to catch a break.
“This is what we’re dealt with,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Some teams go through it more than others at different times, and these are really unpredictable things. So, you just have to manage it.”
This is Whiteside’s second injury to his right ankle since joining the Heat. He missed two games with a similar injury three weeks ago, and averaged 16.8 points, 15.3 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game between the injuries. Without Whiteside and Dwyane Wade, who did not travel with the team for its four-game trip, the Heat was a 121/2-point underdog to the Spurs.
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Like the Heat, the Spurs have been limited because of injuries throughout the season. But unlike the Heat, the defending NBA champions are finally getting healthy. The team reported no injuries before Friday’s game, marking the first time San Antonio has been completely healthy since Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
The Heat wasn’t completely healthy then, and it still isn’t.
Whiteside isn’t expected to miss much time — after all, he aggravated his ankle in the first quarter against the Timberwolves and still had a monster game — but Wade could be out a while. On Monday, the Heat will rejoin Wade in Miami, where he has rehabbed his strained hamstring while the Heat struggled through a difficult trip.
“He’s working and taking his time, obviously, but he’s definitely working towards getting back as soon as possible,” co-captain Udonis Haslem said. “But he has to be smart. This is another hamstring. Not the same as the first one, so hamstrings are one of those injuries where if you’re not smart about it and you don’t address it the right way it can hinder you throughout the season.
“Coming into the second half of the season, we need him to be 100 percent, so we’re going to have to be smart about that one.”
In addition to the injuries to Whiteside and Wade, Heat forward Shawne Williams missed his third consecutive game with a hip injury and Mario Chalmers played against the Spurs despite a nasty shin bruise he sustained against the Timberwolves.
Meanwhile, the Heat’s inbound turnover saga continued on Friday. On Thursday night, the NBA on TNT featured the miscommunication during its popular bloopers segment “Shaqtin’ A Fool.”
Shaquille O’Neal, TNT host Ernie Johnson and analyst Kenny Smith had fun with the goof, which happened with 41 seconds left in the Heat’s one-point loss to the Timberwolves. The bizarre turnover — Norris Cole told Whiteside to inbound the ball after Cole himself had already inbounded the ball — brought attention to the Heat’s game, but for all the wrong reasons.
The banter between the basketball analysts skewered Cole and Whiteside, but the group couldn’t come to a conclusion on exactly who was to blame for the turnover.
“This is the worst of all time,” said Johnson while introducing the video clip.
“Norris Cole!” blurted O’Neal during the lowlight. “This is the worst turnover of history. Not the year; history.”
“This is crazy,” added Smith. “Look at this.”
Then O’Neal delivered the punch line.
“Nine-year-olds do this,” he said.
Miami fans immediately blamed Cole for the turnover, which might have cost the Heat the game. But Smith, who was a guard in the NBA, put the mistake on Whiteside.
“Whiteside is worse than Cole,” Smith said. “Why did he go back?”
“That’s on Norris Cole, man,” Johnson said.
“That’s on Whiteside,” Smith said.
Luckily for the Heat, Charles Barkley wasn’t in the studio.
On Friday, Spoelstra laughed off his team’s appearance on the blooper reel.
“Our bigs usually take it out,” Spoelstra said. “It was a miscommunication. Things happen. Things that will make you cry will make you laugh.”