Hassan Whiteside didn’t trumpet the birth of his first child by bestowing gifts on his teammates when he rejoined the Heat after a four-game absence.
No Whitman’s Samplers.
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None of that new dad stuff.
But Whiteside might have given them something more valuable.
“His presence,” said Josh Richardson. “It’ll do for now.”
The Heat welcomed the return of Whiteside after he remained in South Florida to witness the birth of his son — Jayden Legend Whiteside — as it was going 2-2 to start its road trip.
“It was surreal,” Whiteside said. “It was a great feeling, just knowing that you’ve got somebody to take care of, somebody that needs you. It took awhile to hit me. I think when I took him home, that’s when it really hit me.”
When the Heat last saw Whiteside, he was making an early exit from their last previous home game, a Dec. 4 loss to Orlando in which he didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter.
Whiteside claimed he was taking a restroom break when he got up from the bench and walked to the locker room in the final minute.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra saw things differently, calling Whiteside’s action’s “unacceptable behavior” and saying the matter was handled internally.
Clearly, Spoelstra and the Heat are allowing bygones to be bygones. Spoelstra said he intended to start Whiteside on Friday against Memphis, hoping the Heat’s newest father is the same force for them as he was before.
“He was playing good basketball right before he left,” Spoelstra said of Whiteside, who is averaging 13 points, 13 rebounds and leads the NBA in blocks. “And he’s in good shape, great spirits. He knows what he has to do.”
Whiteside worked out in Miami with player development coach Anthony Carter during his absence from the team.
“He was able to get a couple of really good workouts in with A.C. while they were in Miami,” Spoelstra said. “He’s ready to go.”
Though fully occupied with a newborn, Whiteside said the time away allowed him moments to reflect on what he hopes to accomplish on the court going forward.
He said he is “even more locked in” now and hopes to “come in and make a better impact, a bigger impact — just come in and improve.”
Spoelstra said spreading minutes among the Heat’s three big men — Whiteside, Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk — is something that “will work itself out.”
Richardson said he expects Whiteside to contribute immediately.
“I think he’ll be a big key for us tonight,” Richardson said. “He’s a force in the paint. If we get him to come out and play aggressively, I think he’ll be great.”
As for Whiteside’s failure to bring gifts, Richardson said it was no big deal.
“I don’t smoke cigars,” Richardson said with a smile. “We can work on the whole gift thing (later).”
▪ With point guard Goran Dragic (knee) out once again, Spoelstra said it’s important for others filling his role on the Heat to not try to overcompensate, at least not in the scoring column.
“I don’t want guys thinking [they have] got to shoulder the offensive load,” Spoelstra said. “We’re not really going to make up 17 points a game. If anything, we have some potential to be a really tough defensive team.”
Said Richardson: “When he’s out, myself and Justis [Winslow] are going to have to pick it up a little bit.”
The Heat has given no indication on how long it expects Dragic to remain out.
▪ Dwyane Wade was “not feeling well” and didn’t take part in Friday’s pregame shootaround. He was listed as questionable against the Grizzlies.
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