Miami Heat

Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside won’t lobby for defensive honor

The Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside leads the NBA in blocks, but it’s no lock he will win the Defensive Player of the Year.
The Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside leads the NBA in blocks, but it’s no lock he will win the Defensive Player of the Year. mocner@miamiherald.com

Hassan Whiteside tried campaigning on social media earlier this season to earn a spot on the All-Star team and it didn’t work out.

So the NBA’s leading shot blocker said Wednesday he’s not going to try and sell himself for Defensive Player of the Year. Still, Whiteside could resist on sending a message to voters Wednesday.

“Just ask yourself the last time you’ve seen that many blocks and you go from there,” Whiteside said. “I just want you all to go to Toys ’R Us and put each block of how many blocks I’ve got for the season and just look at it and be like ‘That’s a lot of blocks.’ Then you all vote.”

Whiteside has 255 blocks this season — 85 more than the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, who ranks second in the league. According to basketballreference.com, he leads the NBA in Defensive Rating with a score of 94.3, more than a half a point better than Tim Duncan (94.9) and a full point better than last year’s Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard (95.5).

“First off, he’s the No. 1 shot blocker in the league,” teammate Goran Dragic said of Whiteside. “It’s not only how many blocks per game, but how many shots he’s changing. Every time when somebody comes to the lane he’s there. Those guys need to change their shot or they’re too scared to put the ball up and they pass the ball out. It’s a big advantage for our team to have.”

Whiteside posted his 35th double-double to lead the Heat. April 5, 2016. Video by Manny Navarro

Whiteside said he took a “flying knee kick” on his right thigh from Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson when he blocked Jackson’s shot in the second half of Tuesday’s blowout win. Whiteside was held out of practice Wednesday but when asked if he was worried he might miss Thursday’s game against the Bulls he replied: “Not really.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra said Whiteside will likely be a game-time decision.

NEW NICKNAME

Josh Richardson, who goes by the nickname Rook 2 in the Heat locker room, received a new nickname from Hall of Fame-bound center Shaquille O’Neal at halftime of Tuesday’s Heat-Pistons game, which was broadcasted on TNT.

O’Neal tabbed him BRA — short for Baby Ray Allen.

“I can’t really pay too much mind to it, but I think it’s cool somebody as influential as Shaquille O’Neal gave me a nickname,” said Richardson, who now leads all rookies in three-point shooting at 50 percent (49 of 98). “I’m just going to keep playing ball, be a help to the team.”

JOHNSON HOPEFUL

Tyler Johnson has been cautiously optimistic he would be able to return from shoulder surgery before the end of the regular season.

With five games left before the Miami Heat venture into the playoffs, the second-year combo guard remains just that.

“I’d say at least 70 [percent],” Johnson said Tuesday when pressed to provide a number on the chances he’ll return before the Heat wrap up the regular season next week with trips to Detroit and Boston.

“I’m still optimistic for sure. It’s really based on how I feel. We go through the same routine after every workout, seeing how it feels and then the next day coming in and seeing how it feels. When it’s sore, I usually don’t work out two days in a row. That’s what we’re trying to be able to do — put consecutive days together.”

Johnson, who had surgery to repair the rotator cuff in his left shoulder on Feb. 3, has been steadily adding more to his regiment during the past few weeks. He started last month by getting involved defensively in 2-on-2 work. Last week, he started shooting regularly with his left hand — going as far out as the three-point line.

Getting any level of help from Johnson this season would be a nice bonus for the Heat. At the moment, the team has just two healthy point guards available in Dragic and rookie Josh Richardson. Johnson would be able to provide some relief and insurance at that position.

The makeup of the Heat (45-32) has changed quite a bit since Johnson last played on Jan. 26. They’ve become a team that plays with a much faster, attacking pace. Johnson, though, believes he fits right into that.

“That’s how I play — up and down,” he said. “It’s not like I really to adjust my game a whole lot. Obviously I won’t be in game shape when I start. But I don’t think it will take me that long.”

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