The NBA suspended Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside for one game Tuesday, a day after he was ejected for elbowing Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk in the back of the neck, and an apologetic Whiteside said he feels “terrible about it” and doubts this type of incident will happen again.
Whiteside, who has been ejected from two games in the past nine days, will sit out Wednesday’s game against the visiting Brooklyn Nets ‒ a suspension that will cost him $7,000.
That means Whiteside ‒ who’s earning $769,000 this season ‒ has now lost $47,000 this season as a result of eight technical fouls, two ejections, a fine and a suspension.
Whiteside apologized to his teammates after the Heat’s loss to Boston on Monday night and apologized again before the start of practice Tuesday. He said he also apologized to Olynyk and that Olynyk accepted “and wished me much success in the future.”
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Addressing reporters about an hour before the suspension was announced, Whiteside also apologized to Heat fans and said he must “do better keeping calm, keeping a level head.”
His coach, Erik Spoelstra, said the team remains fully committed to the third-year center.
“It’s probably the worst 12 hours of my life,” Whiteside said. “I let my personal stuff on the court affect the team. I feel like I let [the team] down. It can’t happen again. It was just a terrible decision. It was such a far journey for me and I felt I took some steps back. I’m better than that.”
Monday’s ejection came a week after he was ejected for trying to tackle Phoenix center Alex Len after Len had pushed him aside. Both players were ejected but neither was suspended.
“These are my first two ejections in my life,” said Whiteside, who has played in 54 NBA games, 35 for Miami. “I’m in the locker room watching the game feeling it’s all my fault.”
Asked what led to Monday’s incident, Whiteside said: “It was a buildup of things, from getting elbowed in the face on on my first block. A couple of shots to the face on the rebound. … I told Kelly I didn’t mean to hurt him.
“I’ve got to take the hits and hope the refs keep me safe out there. I’m starting to realize I’m a bigger name in the NBA than what I was. [But] it’s kind of frustrating when random guys are hitting you in your face. People in the scouting report are probably saying, ‘Hit this guy with a couple of cheap shots and let’s see what he’ll do.’ I’ve got to just take it and hope the refs see it.”
Several people spoke to Whiteside afterward, including Spoelstra, Heat executive Alonzo Mourning and teammates Udonis Haslem, Michael Beasley and Luol Deng.
“There was nobody really angry with me. It was more, ‘You’ve got to do better,’ ” he said.
Spoelstra did not answer directly when asked if Whiteside needs anger management classes but said the organization is “not turning our back on him. This is a symbiotic relationship. We’re here for him. He knows we still value him. Hassan has a great heart. We’ll be able to figure it out.
“We are going to correct it with him. He wants to and he knows we need him. [But] he needs to be accountable to every other player and staff member in the locker room.”
Dwyane Wade was critical of Whiteside after Monday’s game, saying he was “very” disappointed in him and that “if he continues to act that way, then he’s not reliable.”
Wade had a softer tone Tuesday.
“He’s still a kid. He’s a genuine guy, a nice guy,” Wade said. “He’s a sincere kid. He’s not meaning to do it. … It’s a big boy’s game you’re playing now. You’re good. You like to dunk on people, be dominant, be aggressive and people are going to be that way back. He has to understand this is his new life created by his talent. He’s got to understand big guys are going to get fouled hard. … We’re going to help him through it.”
Haslem said he didn’t need to scold Whiteside: “He’s not a guy I feel I have to jump all over and attack. You don’t have to raise your voice. It’s genuine.”
▪ Guard Goran Dragic said there’s a 75 percent chance he will play Wednesday after missing two games with a tailbone injury. Haslem, dealing with assorted injuries, said he plans to play. Spoelstra was non-committal on Chris Andersen, who has an ankle injury.
WEDNESDAY: NETS AT HEAT
When, where: 7:30 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena.
TV, radio: Sun Sports; WAXY 104.3 FM, 790 AM, WAQI 710 AM (Spanish).
Series: Heat leads 62-45.
Noteworthy: Miami has won all three games this season against the Nets, who are chasing the Hornets, Pacers and Heat for the final two Eastern Conference playoff spots. The Heat won by 12 points and four points in the two games in Brooklyn, and by four in their previous meeting in Miami.