Miami Heat

Heat center Hassan Whiteside says Portland was second free agency option

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) reacts after getting called on a clear-path foul in the third quarter as the Miami Heat hosts the Chicago Bulls at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Nov. 10, 2016
Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) reacts after getting called on a clear-path foul in the third quarter as the Miami Heat hosts the Chicago Bulls at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Nov. 10, 2016 adiaz@miamiherald.com

Heat center Hassan Whiteside met with president Pat Riley and Heat representatives at midnight in New York City when free-agency began on July 1.

After that meeting, he heard a pitch from the Dallas Mavericks, before ultimately deciding to rejoin the Heat.

All of that made Whiteside’s response to a question about whether he was interested in joining Miami’s opponent late Saturday night — the Portland Trail Blazers — in free agency, intriguing.

“Portland was my second option,” Whiteside said at the team’s Saturday shootaround in Portland. “I would have came here.”

The answer from Whiteside was interesting, considering that Portland hasn’t figured prominently in the previous telling of his free agency courtship.

ESPN.com reported last week that Portland “chased” Whiteside in free agency, but nothing was said of Whiteside’s interest.

Whiteside signed a four-year maximum contract with the Heat worth approximately $98 million. Portland used its available cap space to re-sign all of its top free agents, as well as sign Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli from other teams.

The Blazers, thought to be a contender in the Western Conference after a surprising second-round playoff appearance last year, could use Whiteside’s help. They’ve stumbled out of the gate, starting 10-10 and currently sport the league’s worst defensive rating.

DINNER ON SPO

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra took advantage of a rare three-day layoff in his hometown of Portland, including a home-cooked meal from Mom.

“We haven’t had this ever here,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve been able to spend a lot of quality time. I’m not taking that for granted. We haven’t experienced that much. A home-cooked meal from Mom? It’s perfect this time of year.”

While Spoelstra was catching up on quality time with loved ones, he made sure his team was as comfortable as could be in his hometown. Heat players and staffers enjoyed a Friday night dinner at the Spoelstra-owned 23 Hoyt, in Northwest Portland, on the house.

“Everything was good, I was surprised,” guard Goran Dragic said, giving his review of Spo’s place. “I didn’t know that Spo owned the restaurant. It’s good.”

“It helps a lot,” said Dragic about the importance of nights like Friday. “We are on the road a lot. You are away from your family. It’s not good when you’re always in your room alone. We need to hang out. This group is really close, connected and every time we have a chance to do something together off the court we always do that. It helps a lot.”

INJURY UPDATES

It’s also something of a homecoming for forward Luke Babbitt, who was drafted by the Blazers and played three seasons in Portland. His return is bittersweet.

An MRI taken Friday confirmed that Babbitt has a strained hip flexor, making him day-to-day but keeping him out Saturday’s game, according to Spoelstra.

“It could be worse,” Babbitt said. “It’s pretty sore. It’s only been a couple of days since I strained it, but it’s pretty sore.”

The Heat did, however, get some good news Saturday on the injury front.

Derrick Williams (back spasms) went through the team’s shootaround on Saturday and is expected to play after missing the team’s past two games.

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