For the most part, Hassan Whiteside has done a pretty good job this season keeping his emotions and temper in check.
Yes, the Heat's center did get whistled for his second technical foul last week in Orlando after he fired a four-letter word at an official over what Whiteside perceived as a missed call. And yes, he did get ejected right before the All-Star break for elbowing Spurs center Boban Marjanovic in the face -- a flagrant foul two Whiteside drew even though he said he never intended to hurt Marjanovic because they are represented by the same agent.
Still, for the most part, Whiteside has kept his cool this season. He didn’t do anything last week after Bulls forward Doug McDermott tackled him to the ground except joke about it afterward, saying he got “sacked for a loss of five.”
“I get tackled a lot,” Whiteside said last Friday in Orlando, a day after McDermott’s tackle. “In Sacramento I got sacked about three times. Me and Tom Brady are about [even]. I might even have a few more than Cam [Newton]. It's crazy.”
Udonis Haslem, who knows a thing or two about taking hard hits on the court, said he's proud of the way Whiteside has handled himself this season. But the Heat's veteran power forward knows what's ahead for Whiteside in the playoffs will be more intense than anything the 26-year-old has ever seen.
Haslem said he knows teams are going to try to get under Whiteside's skin even more. So, Haslem said he’s spent the last few weeks staying in Whiteside's ear, preparing him for the “agitators” he says will try and get the league's leading shot blocker to loose his cool -- albeit with a cheap shot or something the refs might not even see.
“People are going to try get and get bush league sometimes,” Haslem said. “I've seen him endure some punishment the last couple games, a lot of fouls going up around the neck, getting tackled. I'm impressed with the way he's handled it, the maturity he's playing with.
“But I told him, we're going to need that from him in the playoffs. We can't have him making silly mistakes because sometimes that's people's game plan, to get under his skin and frustrate him. He affects us so much when he's on the floor. When he's tuned in, locked in and focused, he's one of the best in the league. And no one can make up for that on our team. So we need him out there on the floor."
If ever there were a poster boy for agitation, it's Hornets 6-9, 250-pound forward Tyler Hansbrough -- or Psycho T as he was called during his playing days at North Carolina. Hansbrough has been whistled for 19 technical fouls and six flagrant fouls in his seven-year career.
Google Hansbrough's name and flagrant foul and you'll find video of Detroit's Will Bynum punching him in the stomach in 2013. Kevin Garnett, who was with the Celtics that same season, also drew a flagrant foul against Hansbrough with an elbow across Hansbrough’s face.
Hansbrough has plenty of history with the Heat too. In Game 5 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals against Indiana, he hammered Dwyane Wade as he drove the lane. Hansbrough drew a flagrant foul for it and later in the game Haslem retaliated with a double-armed smack down of Hansbrough that also drew a flagrant foul.
The following year in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pacers, then-Heat forward Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen took Hansbrough down with his shoulder and drew a flagrant foul. Andersen was suspended for the following game.
Although Hansbrough has averaged just 4.8 minutes per game since the All-Star break for Charlotte, he’s the most ideal Hornets’ candidate to try and test Whiteside's patience.
“I mean I can't really do anything about that,” Whiteside said last week when asked about the prospect of facing “an agitator” in a playoff series night after night. “I just hope that the refs are there to kind of protect me and the NBA does what it has to do to protect us. I can't really avoid getting tackled or avoid getting grabbed.”
Whiteside ranks 33rd in fouls drawn this season with 275. That's one more than Wade for most on the team this season. Whiteside said there's been many more fouls than simply haven't been called.
And while he may have a reputation for losing his cool, Whiteside said he feels it really isn’t warranted. In fact, he's been whistled for fewer technical fouls this season than coach Erik Spoelstra (5), Amar'e Stoudemire (5), Wade (4), Gerald Green (3) and the same as Tyler Johnson, Luol Deng and Goran Dragic.
“I'm not a crazy or nothing,” Whiteside said. “I've probably got the least amount of technicals out of all the other centers. I've got maybe one or two technicals and one of those was because I got excited and slammed the ball down after I got two blocks back-to-back against Portland. It's not like I'm a guy that's angry or always angry at the refs.
“Like I said, I just hope the refs do a great job of trying to protect the players and try to be careful when the playoffs start.”