Miami Heat

Hassan Whiteside: ‘We can definitely be a top four team in the East’

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside, right, prepares to play in the Celebrity Sweat softball game at Barry University in Miami Shores on Saturday, July 8, 2017.
Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside, right, prepares to play in the Celebrity Sweat softball game at Barry University in Miami Shores on Saturday, July 8, 2017. mnavarro@miamiherald.com

Hassan Whiteside doesn’t just think the Miami Heat will be a playoff team next season.

“I definitely think we can definitely be a top four team in the East,” the 7-foot, 260-pound center Saturday afternoon, a day after the Heat officially re-signed James Johnson and Dion Waiters, retained top three-point shooter Wayne Ellington and added former Celtics center Kelly Olynyk to the roster.

“It’s great having everybody back. We get a Round 2 at this thing.”

Whiteside added “it’s only right” the Heat front office allowed last year’s group, which finished 30-11 over the second half of last season, but missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker to the Chicago Bulls after finishing 41-41 overall, a second chance to play together.

Miami was among the league leaders in games missed due to injury. Waiters missed the team’s final 13 games because of a sprained ankle and another 22 games earlier in the season because of a groin injury.

“I’m very confident coming into the season,” Whiteside said. “I believe in these guys and we’re going to keep building and keep doing what we did last year.”

Whiteside, the league’s leading rebounder last season, said he never had any doubts Waiters, 25, and Johnson, 30, would return to Miami.

“Them guys love it here,” he said. “I’m very happy that they’re coming back, but I’m even more happy that they’re here for so long instead of signing a one or two year deal.”

The Heat has added three new big men to the roster in Olynyk (7-0, 238), 19-year-old rookie Bam Adebayo (6-10, 245) and second-year center A.J. Hammons (7-0, 249) over the last two weeks.

Whiteside, 28, believes Miami’s new power rotation “can be a really good group.”

“Especially the rookie, the way he’s been playing in the summer league,” Whiteside said. “I’ve been watching him a lot. I’m very excited.”

As for Olynyk, Whiteside calls him a “a versatile big.”

“He’s a big that can shoot, that can stretch the floor and that can do a lot of different things,” he said. “He’s not easy to guard. I think he’s a lot better than people are giving him credit for. He’s a very talented player.”

Olynyk and Whiteside have a bit of a history, too. Back in March 2015, Whiteside charged at and elbowed Olynyk in the back of the neck, getting himself ejected from a game here at AmericanAirlines Arena and suspended an extra game after that.

That’s ancient history, though, now. Whiteside apologized for his cheap shot that same night and Olynyk forgave him. The two have been on good terms ever since and will now be teammates.

Olynyk said Whiteside texted him as soon as he arrived in Miami on Friday to sign his contract.

“I think he’s a great player,” Whiteside said. “He’s a little bit under viewed because he looks like a surfer. But he can definitely play.”

As for Olynyk’s long, blond hair, Whiteside said: “Let the Miami breeze just blow it.”

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