Barry Jackson

With Chris Bosh out, Dragic and Whiteside look to build on chemistry

Miami Heat's Hassan Whiteside (21) is congratulated by Miami Heat's Goran Dragic (7) after scoring against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Wednesday, March 4, 2015.
Miami Heat's Hassan Whiteside (21) is congratulated by Miami Heat's Goran Dragic (7) after scoring against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Wednesday, March 4, 2015. AP

As we first reported here this morning, the Heat will not clear Chris Bosh to play because of a recurrence of blood clots. And Bosh, as of now, is accepting that decision peacefully.

Among the many ramifications: Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside enter the season as Miami’s top offensive players.

The question, with camp opening Tuesday: Can their on-court chemistry continue to improve?

The off-court dynamics between the two were so off kilter at times last season that Erik Spoelstra, last February, ordered them to go to dinner or do absolutely whatever was necessary to improve their chemistry.

Their collaboration improved almost immediately after that, and it will never be more important than it this season, with the departure of Dwyane Wade, who had better synergy with Whiteside than anybody, and the loss of Bosh.

Whereas Wade assisted on 92 Whiteside baskets and 29 alley-oops, Dragic assisted on just 65 of Whiteside’s hoops and 14 of his alley-oops.

But 50 of Dragic’s 65 assists to Whiteside came in 28 games after the All-Star break, compared with just 15 in 54 games before.

Bosh released a video statement late Friday evening on uninterrupted.com.

One reason why: The two teammates started talking a lot more, both off the court and during games, and the results have been noticeable. Whiteside started setting better screens for Dragic, which helped free him offensively.

“It was great,” Whiteside said this offseason, via Heat.com. “Each game me and Goran got better. He’s easy to talk to. He’s a really good point guard. As the season went on, me and Goran understood each other better.

“[This] year is going to be even bigger. More of me and Goran communicating on that basketball level and getting to know each other better.”

Spoelstra said earlier this year that the key was they both “committed to working together, before practice, after practice. Two guys that want to do it right and they understand they're involved in a lot of collaborations together and they have to spend time working on it.

“It's not going to happen through osmosis. They both wanted to make it better. They just didn't necessarily know how to make it better. Just spend time together and you'll figure it out.”

Dragic said he never ended up going “alone with Hassan” to dinner, but they did spend more time together in groups with teammates, and it helped because “you discuss things. You get to know the guy better and where he comes from. He opened up to me and vice versa. You know what the guy is thinking now.”

Also helpful: Dragic said he and Whiteside practiced pick-and-rolls alone, after practice.

Though they’ve always gotten along, Dragic, from Slovenia, and Whiteside, from North Carolina, don’t necessarily have a lot in common.

“He likes to play video games; I don’t do that,” Dragic said. “I have a family [with kids]; he doesn’t. But we both love basketball.”

The upshot, Dragic said, is they now they mastered non-verbal signals, to the point where Whiteside can anticipate a Dragic alley-oop before the defense knows it’s coming.

“It was hard” to get to this point, Dragic said. But the improved communication “has helped us function.”

Said Whiteside: “I know it looks like sometimes we're out there arguing or fussing. But every time I see something, I tell him. And it goes both ways.”

BOSH FALLOUT

Even if he never plays again, which is a good possibility, Bosh will still make the final $76 million he’s owed. As we explain here, there’s a mechanism for his salary to be cleared from the Heat’s cap in the spring.

As far as who would pay Bosh the $76 million, The Vertical’s Bobby Marks said in this piece that “once Bosh misses 41 games (he missed 29 in 2016-17) insurance will reimburse the Heat 80 percent of the guaranteed amount owed to Bosh, or up to a maximum of $175,000 per game, with the Heat responsible for the balance.”

According to Marks, who’s a former Nets executive, here’s what the insurance company and Miami would each be responsible for:

Year; What Insurance Pays; What Miami Pays

2016-17; $12.25 million; $11.5 million

2017-18; $14.35 million; $10.9 million

2018-19; $14.35 million; $12.5 million

Total: $40.95 million paid by insurance; $34.9 million paid by Heat

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