Hassan Whiteside is standing by the reasoning Dwyane Wade gave for the center’s departure to the locker room with 40.5 seconds left in the Miami Heat’s 105-90 loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday. Whiteside spoke publicly Wednesday for the first time since the incident and said he stood up off the bench and headed to the locker room in order to use the bathroom.
“I was just trying to use the bathroom. I was just holding it,” Whiteside said after practice Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. “It’s not the first time I left the bench to go to the bathroom, but I think the situation kind of made it a bigger deal because we were down 15, I guess.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra, however, called his early exit, “unacceptable.” After the loss Tuesday, Spoelstra said he did not receive an immediate explanation from Whiteside. The coach then said Wednesday the situation was handled internally as a team.
“It’s totally unacceptable behavior by Hassan,” Spoelstra said after practice Wednesday. “We handled it as a team in the locker room today. That’s all any of you need to know.”
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Whiteside said he gave his reasoning to teammates after the game Tuesday.
Dwyane Wade, Whiteside said, asked the 29-year-old what happened in the final minute and Whiteside told him he had to leave to use the bathroom. Whiteside said the conversation occured in front of the team.
Wade, who said Tuesday that Whiteside left to use the bathroom, declined to comment further Wednesday after practice, the team’s final practice at home before leaving to face the Phoenix Suns on Friday.
“I told him in front of the team, I was like, ‘My stomach’s been bothering me,’” Whiteside said. “I don’t know if it was something I ate or something, but maybe I could’ve talked to the training staff a little bit and let everybody know, but I was just in a rush to get to the bathroom. I think everybody’s been in a situation where they had to go to the bathroom and couldn’t hold it.
“I ain’t know it was going to be as big of a deal as it was. I couldn’t hold it. My stomach was bothering me. Maybe I would’ve just — I don’t know. I would’ve probably tried to hold it even longer. I don’t know. I tried to hold it as long as I could. I’m sorry if that makes me a bad guy.”
Whiteside’s desertion came at the end of a particularly frustrating six-game stretch for the center. Spoelstra benched Whiteside for the entire fourth quarter in five of the last six games, including Tuesday. In those five games in which Whiteside didn’t log a fourth-quarter second, the Heat (9-14) posted a 1-4 record, although Whiteside’s play in the other three periods hasn’t been exactly stellar either.
In the past six games, Whiteside is averaging 13 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 22.9 minutes per game, down from his season-long averages of 13.5 points, 13.7 rebounds and 2.9 blocks in 26.9 minutes. Take out the Heat’s win against the Utah Jazz on Sunday — in which Whiteside went for 23 and 20, and played fourth-quarter minutes — and his averages in the other five games dip to 11 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in just 20.8 minutes.
Whiteside maintains the limited minutes in the fourth quarter aren’t grating him.
“I’m not getting frustrated,” Whiteside said. “Coach is going to make the best decisions for us and the organization’s got Coach Spo’s back, and I trust in Spo. That’s all I can do. I can only control what I control, which is coming in and doing my job, and try to block as many shots as I can and rebound as much as I can.”
This isn’t Whiteside’s first disciplinary incident since he joined Miami. In April, the Heat fined Whiteside after a profanity-laced rant about his lack of playing time. Whiteside said he feels his reputation made his latest incident into a bigger story than it deserved to be.
“I think it was a bigger deal because it was me,” Whiteside said. “I went to the bathroom last game we played Utah. It’s not the first time. I think the situation was [amplified] in that it’s Hassan Whiteside.”
The most egregious issue for Whiteside recently has been his free-throw shooting. Whiteside seemingly had a breakthrough at the stripe last season, shooting a career best 70.3 percent from line on 182 attempts. This year, his percentage has cratered. Whiteside is down to 47.2 percent from the free-throw line. In his past six games, Whiteside is shooting a horrific 15.4 percent on 26 attempts from the stripe.
Whiteside didn’t come into the Miami locker room until after 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, when the team closed off access to reporters. A team spokesperson said Whiteside was in the upstairs practice facility shooting and Whiteside said the same Wednesday. The 7-footer said he attempted 300 free throws after the game and the shots have typically been falling at a decent clip on the practice court.
“It goes good. It goes well,” Whiteside said. “That’s what I think the most frustrating part about it is because I’m making them, making them, making them, making them, making them and then when I get down there it’s going in and out, it’s going all over the place.
“I made the mistake of changing my routine, but I’ve got to just trust it and they’re going to fall. It’s going to work its way back into the 70s like last year.”