Miami Heat

Hassan Whiteside’s monster dunks now part of Heat’s repertoire

Hassan Whiteside #21 of the Miami Heat goes for the dunk against the Los Angeles Clippers during the game on January 11, 2015 at STAPLES CENTER in Los Angeles, California .
Hassan Whiteside #21 of the Miami Heat goes for the dunk against the Los Angeles Clippers during the game on January 11, 2015 at STAPLES CENTER in Los Angeles, California . NBAE/Getty Images

Monster dunk. Get to know the phrase.

That’s the description Heat All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have given to baskets by new Heat center Hassan Whiteside when he catches a lob pass flatfooted and then dunks it, swings forward on the rim and pulls his knees up to his waist.

The monster dunk is just one of the Heat’s new elements of offense with Whiteside on the court. There are also more open shots for Chris Bosh, more opportunities at the rim for Wade and better looks from the outside for Mario Chalmers and Luol Deng, but the monster dunk is what Wade calls “a game changer.”

“The good thing about him is he can catch it and he can finish, and he does it standing still,” Wade said of Whiteside. “You can throw a lob to him and he’s not even running and jumping yet. He’s just standing still and he monster dunks it.”

It’s making things a little easier for the Heat these days after a prolonged stretch of difficult games.

Understand, there isn’t much of an art to the monster dunk — just catch the ball and dunk the ball. It’s that simple, and it’s an element of offense the Heat has lacked for several years. Shaquille O’Neal helped monster dunk the Heat to a championship in 2006. Whiteside is no Shaq, but he might be good enough to help get the Heat into the Eastern Conference playoffs.

“I put the orange ball in the circle,” said Whiteside jokingly about his role.

With the injury to Josh McRoberts earlier in the season, Whiteside’s ability around the rim has allowed the Heat to slow down the pace of games effectively and transition from a running, motion offense to something more traditional. Wade believes Whiteside can average a double-double in points and rebounds.

Whiteside’s monster dunks were unstoppable against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, and the potential for that instant offense has changed some things for the Heat’s offense during the middle of this five-game trip on the West Coast.

With Whiteside in the middle and playing off of Wade, the Heat’s offense has more options, and its perimeter players can be more deliberate.

What does Spoelstra like most about the pick-and-rolls between Wade and Whiteside that were so effective against the Clippers? It’s not rocket science. The Heat isn’t reinventing the game.

“I like the dunks,” Spoelstra said.

The slower pace suits the Heat, Wade said.

“Early on, I didn’t like the pace we were going, and I knew it wasn’t going to hold up for a whole season,” Wade said. “I like the pace we’re going because it feels like, the thing is, we’re a good shooting team and if we can stop turning the ball over and we can get the ball in the hands of guys who need to make plays, we can get good shots.”

Monster dunks certainly qualify as good shots.

Whiteside followed up his career game against the Clippers with heavy minutes once again against the Lakers on Tuesday night in a late game for the East Coast. The Heat plays the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday in Oakland.

People laughed it off when Whiteside first arrived in Miami in November and exclaimed on his first day with his new team that his goal was to “dunk on people.” No one is laughing anymore, though, after Whiteside had 23 points and 16 rebounds against the Clippers while helping limit DeAndre Jordan to four points and six rebounds in 33 minutes.

With Whiteside in the paint, Wade has adjusted his game to suit the needs of the team. He had 10 assists against the Clippers, and before Tuesday’s game against the Lakers he said he would “probably have the ball more in my hands as a point guard.”

“I’m a naturally a scorer,” Wade said. “I love to score the ball, but I’m also a natural playmaker. At this point, when you’re as many games under .500 as we are, it’s about doing whatever to help you win.

“I mean, if anyone is statistics watching right now then that’s just a shame. We need to just get some wins, so it’s just doing whatever each game.”

Related stories from Miami Herald