The Heat spent practice time this week working on defending five-guard lineups, and Hassan Whiteside said he’s “excited” to prove he can be an asset defensively in those lineups after not getting the opportunity on Monday against Washington.
With the Wizards playing five guards, Whiteside sat the entire fourth quarter of Washington’s win. That led to a discussion with coach Erik Spoelstra on Tuesday.
“We worked some things out,” Whiteside said Wednesday. “Everything is going to be all right.”
Whiteside said he spent the aftermath brushing up on the team’s defensive rotations against such small lineups “and rotating out on guards” so that he’s prepared if Spoelstra uses him against lineups with five shooters.
“I'm excited about it,” Whiteside said. “I can't come into the game trying to be one of the best defenders in the NBA and not be able to guard a guard. That's something I can do.”
Whiteside, who entered Wednesday’s game against Charlotte ranked eighth in the NBA in rebounds per game (10.5) and first in blocks (4.5), said he’ll well equipped to defend perimeter players because “that's all I play against when I'm not playing an NBA game. There aren't a lot of 7-footers around.
“I play [backcourt teammates] Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson all the time one-on-one. Ask them how I do. Normally I win, but I don't want to give myself a pat on the back.
“I feel like I'm a mobile big. I feel like I can do a lot of things other 7 footers can't do. I never felt I was one of those 7 footers where I get on the perimeter and I just fall over. I feel like I can stay in
front of a lot of guys.”
Celtics center Jared Sullinger said recently that Whiteside doesn’t leave the paint much defensively even when he’s defending a jump-shooting center. Is that Whiteside’s decision or the team’s?
“It's more my decision, but it's something I'm going to have to adapt with,” he said. “I consider myself one of the elite defenders in the NBA. That's just something I've got to change.”
Chris Bosh, whose skills are well suited to defending centers on the perimeter, said Whiteside is “going to make mistakes” defending guard-heavy lineups. “We have to know that off of mental conditioning. It took me a long time to get used to it.”
Spoelstra said Whiteside “has shown times he can cover the court. We’ll adapt.”
Spoelstra said facing such a small lineup Monday “forced us to address it, which we needed to…. We worked on it the last two days.”
In the wake of the NBA admitting that it bungled a call against the Heat late in the Wizards game, Spoelstra said: “OK, thank you. What can you say? I appreciate them for over-communicating, but that doesn't change how we feel about the emotion of the call when it happened.”
The league, in its daily officiating report, said Wizards guard Bradley Beal traveled with 1:07 left against the Heat. The violation was not called, and Beal passed to Gary Neal for a three-pointer that pushed Washington’s lead to five.
Bosh, whose vociferous objection about the non-call led to his ejection, said he was still thinking about whether to appeal the $6000 fine, which includes two technical fouls and an ejection.