Miami Heat

Heat center Hassan Whiteside noncommittal on staying in Miami

Miami Heat's Hassan Whiteside ponders free agency

On Sunday, June 26, 2016 Miami Heat free agent center Hassan Whiteside expresses openness to possibilities as a free agent during a quick interview with members of the media at National YoungArts event in Miami, Florida.
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On Sunday, June 26, 2016 Miami Heat free agent center Hassan Whiteside expresses openness to possibilities as a free agent during a quick interview with members of the media at National YoungArts event in Miami, Florida.

Clearly, Hassan Whiteside is enjoying this experience.

Even so, he doesn’t want to extend it too long.

“July 1,” the Heat center said, of the date he officially becomes a free agent. “Hopefully, I know. I hope it’s an easy decision to make.”

Whiteside was at the Young Arts Foundation on Sunday to root for high school and college friends in the Dew NBA 3X tournament. Then he spoke to the media for the first time since the Heat season ended in the second round — with Whiteside out nursing an injured knee.

That knee is fine now, with no surgery necessary. And Whiteside is feeling fine about his current situation, coming off a minimum contract and in line for something near a maximum deal. When he saw the media gathered to speak with him, he smiled: “Hey guys. It’s a party now.”

Miami Heat team president Pat Riley talks about the recently completed season and the team's plans for free agency on Wed., May 18, 2016

Whiteside called it “flattering” that teams he used to call for tryouts, unsuccessfully, are now after him. Reports have included Dallas, Portland and the Los Angeles Lakers in the chase. And Whiteside didn’t do much on Sunday to discourage their pursuit.

“It’s open,” Whiteside said.

And when asked if he would return to Miami “if all things are equal” — the Heat can actually offer a bit more on a long-term deal due to larger raises — he paused, puffed out some air and said: “We’ll see.”

Whiteside said he hasn’t narrowed his list yet, because teams can’t directly express interest until July 1. He called this “a big opportunity” and “a big decision,” comparing it to his choice to try out for the D-League rather than go to China.

He disputed any notion that loyalty to a team should be a determining factor, mentioning “fit with the team” and “how they utilize their offense and defense” instead. And he said he wasn’t putting a premium of Florida’s absence of state tax, because “you can always be traded.”

(Incidentally, Dallas is also in a state with no income tax.)

“There’s a lot of things that come into it,” Whiteside said. “There’s not one specific thing. It’s like you having a wife. You can’t say one specific thing you like about her, you know, you just got to like her as a whole. … All the dots got to connect.”

Of course, Pat Riley needs to connect dots for the Heat, and that’s where this gets complicated. Riley said after the season that Whiteside was the Heat’s “No. 1 priority.”

Whiteside heard that comment and said he had a good meeting with Riley two weeks ago. But Riley has also made it clear that he will always be seeking a “whale,” and wants a meeting with Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant.

Whiteside seems to be sending a message — that he’s not especially willing to wait.

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