Hassan Whiteside says the Heat’s struggles with setting screens correctly — a complaint both Dion Waiters and coach Erik Spoelstra brought up Monday — comes down to his teammates being more patient.
His teammates? They say it comes down to Whiteside holding the screen longer.
Either way, it’s an issue Spoelstra says has to be corrected for the Heat’s offense to start flowing better.
“We need to be better,” Spoelstra said Tuesday after practice, two days after the Heat had a second-half meltdown in its ugliest loss of the season by 25 points at home to the Indiana Pacers. “There’s no question, the level of detail [needs to be better]. Yes, the little things really matter for us. And we have not been doing a good job with that. And we’ve worked at it hard, the last couple of days.”
Whiteside was not credited with any screen assists in Sunday’s loss. Pacers center Myles Turner, by comparison, had seven — one more than the Heat as a team.
The Heat average 8.6 screen assists per game, 12th most in the league. James Johnson (2.3 per game), Kelly Olynyk (2.1 per game) and Whiteside (2.2 per game) all rank in the top 50 in the league in screen assists.
“It’s really important,” point guard Goran Dragic of screen setting. “If me and Dion want to get in the paint then, of course, we need good screens so we can get there and breakdown the guys and try to spray it or finish [at the rim]. When there’s no screen then it’s really tough because then you have two guards, two players with nowhere to go. So that’s why it’s really hard to get open shots and create open shots [when screens aren’t set correctly].
“I think Kelly is really good at that. We need to get Hassan to do that. But, he’s gotten to that a little bit, he’s already shown he could do it. The Detroit game and Washington game he was great. But we need to be consistent.”
Whiteside is coming off as the roll man 19.3 percent of the time he touches the ball and he’s averaging 3.5 points off them per game this season. Last season, he was the roll man on 15.8 percent of his touches and he averaged 3.2 points off them.
The issue for the Heat isn’t Whiteside finishing off those pick-and-roll plays, it’s making sure he doesn’t abandon his guards too early. Thus far in 11 games he’s been called for an illegal screen four times.
“I mean, it’s just, it’s just, man, the guys aren’t being patient,” Whiteside said. “Me and D-Wade showed that all year long, we ain’t had no problems [with screens]. It’s just being patient, man, just be patient, wait for the screen and let guys set you up and make decisions.
“I’ve had a lot of offensive fouls [on screens]. Yeah, when you set the screen, you know as a big, you’re going to get open. So, if anything you’re going to want set the screen and get yourself open, too, so it all comes down to it. So it’s just guys got to be patient, just be patient, wait for it, and let guys set their feet.”
Dragic said he always makes sure to bring up issues with Whiteside — and others — immediately when screen setting fails during the game. But on Sunday, he said, everyone just lost focus.
“Yeah, we talk, but sometimes it’s hard because it’s a lot of things going on,” he said. “Like last game, we didn’t defend well. Everybody is frustrated and our head goes. We’re complaining to the refs. We’re not paying attention to the things we should. We try to correct those things. Of course, we talk, but when the head is somewhere else you know what to do, but you’re not doing it. So, I think that’s the problem.”
Dragic said he, Waiters and Whiteside all sat down and watched film together Monday and discussed the breakdowns they’ve been having on screens.
Thus far this season, Dragic has assisted Whiteside on 15 of his buckets, more than any other player on the team. James Johnson is next with 10 assists and Josh Richardson and Dion Waiters follow him with six each.
“There’s so many lobs and those lobs just don’t make themselves,” Whiteside said. “I’m going to roll and try to get the screen there. A lot of times a lot of people are going under, and I tell them guys to shoot, to make ‘em pay for going under all the time.”
Olynyk said the priority in the end has to be freeing up the Heat’s guards to make plays.
“You get the guards open and set a good screen, you’re going to be open and they’re going to open,” Olynyk said. “The defense is going to have to give. The reason for the screen is to create an advantage. If you’re not creating an advantage, you’re kind of two ships passing in the night and nobody is going to notice.”