Hassan Whiteside could be back in uniform and on the court for the Miami Heat when it hosts the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.
Whiteside has missed the past nine games with a strained left hip flexor, but practiced with his teammates Wednesday for the first time since the injury and is being listed as questionable for Thursday’s game on the team’s injury report.
Rookie center Bam Adebayo (right ankle sprain) did stationary bike work on Wednesday, but is listed as out and expected to miss his second consecutive game.
“It was pretty light,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Whiteside’s practice on Wednesday. “We’ll see [if he plays Thursday]. He’s put in quite a few days of good work. This was his first real court work and competitive live work and we’ll just have to see how he feels [Thursday] and take the next step.
“We like those kind of players that get antsy and anxious and want to get out there. It is our responsibility to make sure guys are healthy and checking all the right boxes and passing all the protocols to be able to get back out there and not have a setback and our staff and Hassan have been great working together to put him in position hopefully to come back soon. We’ll see if that’s [Thursday] night or not.”
The Heat (40-35) went 5-4 without Whiteside during this latest stretch of missed games by its $98 million center and is 14-14 overall this season without him.
“I hope everything goes well and they give me the clearance [to play Thursday],” Whiteside said. “I feel fine. You know, it was just different [Wednesday] being on the court, finally getting back to it. You know, I haven’t shot a basketball in a while, so it was a little different.”
Whiteside, who was hurt during shootaround before the Wizards game on March 10, said he’s no longer experiencing pain but said the strain makes it tough for him to lift his leg.
“It might be some limitations once I come back regardless, just to get me into the flow of things,” Whiteside said. “I never had a hip flexor strain. Any time you get a strain, those things can get worse and they can linger... you can make it worse, so it’s not something you want to try to play through.”
Spoelstra said he hopes Whiteside will be “the first guy in the gym [Thursday] to make sure he preps for the shootaround physically.” To this point, Spoelstra said, Whiteside has done all he can to return.
“You have to manage it as best as you possibly can. Not everything’s going to be a perfect scenario. When guys get injured November, December sometimes in January in between and practice days you’re able to actually play 5 on 5, we’re not able to do that. He’s been doing everything else. He’s been on treadmills, ultra Gs, he’s been on versa climber. He has been doing his lifting, he’s been biking like a Tour de France guy. He just needs to get more court time. He got that [Wednesday], hopefully he’ll be able to get some [Thursday] in shootaround and we’ll go from there.
“I’ll be a happy guy if I walk up there and he’s taped and ready to go in shootaround,” Spoelstra continued. “That means he’ll be able to participate.”
With seven games left in the regular season, the Heat plays its next five games against non-playoff teams. Dwyane Wade said “it would be great” to have Whiteside back at some point during that stretch as the team prepares for the playoffs. The Heat is seeded seventh in the East, a half game in front of Milwaukee.
“To get him back out there whenever that time is and get his wind going and get his confidence back and get familiarity back with the team [would be great],” Wade said. “It’s like when you miss time, sometimes you come back and the team is playing a whole other different way and you kind of got to get back in the groove of that. But definitely, to get our big guy back is a plus.”