Ironically, center Hassan Whiteside brought up the beach when discussing his move from the Miami Heat to the Portland Trail Blazers.
“A perfect situation,” Whiteside said to reporters Thursday during his introductory news conference with the Trail Blazers, which was held at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
“You ever been on a beach? Just chilling and drinking a nice water, looking out at the sunset? That’s how I feel.”
Miami traded Whiteside to Portland last week as part of a four-team trade between the Heat, Blazers, Clippers and 76ers. The Heat acquired Jimmy Butler from the 76ers and Meyers Leonard from the Trail Blazers in the deal.
Whiteside joins a Portland team that made a deep playoff run last season before it was swept by Golden State in the Western Conference finals. The Trail Blazers hope Whiteside benefits from playing alongside their dynamic backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
“What makes me excited is just the movement and just how they did in these last couple years, going to the Western Conference finals,” Whiteside said. “And they’ve got two guys that you got to guard when they get out of their car in the parking lot. You got to pick them up as soon as they get out the car. Those guys are big-time shooters.”
Whiteside, who turned 30 in June, is set to earn $27.1 million in 2019-20 in the final season of the four-year, $98 million contract he signed with the Heat in the summer of 2016.
Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said Whiteside was the team’s prime free agent target in the summer of 2016, and called him an “All-Star-caliber center” and “Defensive Player of the Year candidate.”
With the Heat last season, Whiteside averaged 12.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 72 games. He played 23.3 minutes per game, which is the fewest minutes he has averaged since first signing with the Heat in the middle of the 2014-15 season.
Bam Adebayo, who just completed his second NBA season, took Whiteside’s spot in the Heat’s starting lineup. Whiteside served as a reserve in the Heat’s final 20 games.
Whiteside expressed frustration about his role multiple times during his five-season run with the Heat and drew a fine for one expletive-filled rant in 2017-18.
When Whiteside was asked Thursday about his time with the Heat, he downplayed the notion he left the organization on bad terms.
“I don’t think there was anything,” Whiteside said. “Anybody that was around me in the locker room, my teammates and all that, it was a great environment for us. I was there for six years. We definitely had our ups and downs through six years, but I think it was definitely more good than bad. I can still call anybody today — Pat [Riley], Coach [Erik Spoelstra], any of the team — and we’ll still laugh it up. I don’t really think it was a problem because if it was that big of a problem, I wouldn’t have been there that long.”
In the end, parting ways might just be what’s best for both sides — Whiteside and the Heat.
“I don’t think anything happened bad in Miami,” Whiteside said. “I just feel this was a better fit. This was a better fit for me. I feel like Miami felt the same way.”