Heat center Hassan Whiteside was trying to pass the ball in the post at practice on Monday when he noticed an unexpected second defender: coach Erik Spoelstra.
“He was double-teaming me, fouling me crazy,” Whiteside said, smiling. “But if you ask him, it’s not a foul.”
There is a method behind the madness. The Heat is determined to make Whiteside a better passer, knowing he sometimes will be double-teamed in the post and that he must react quickly to find an open teammate.
Whiteside said he has been working on this all summer, trying to correct one of his game’s few deficiencies.
“I’ve [spent time] passing out of the post,” he said of his on-court work in recent months. “I feel I will get the ball in the post more this year. Last year, I was more of just a lob guy. You don’t want to have a bad turnover.”
In his first season with the Heat (2014-15), Whiteside achieved an ignominious record by registering just six assists, the fewest in history for a player who logged as many as 1140 minutes, compared with 58 turnovers.
That improved slightly to 29 assists and 137 turnovers last season, but that obviously needs to be much better.
Among 76 centers, Whiteside’s 29 assists were 51st-most, and his 137 turnovers were eighth-highest, well below Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins’ 249.
“He just needs more reps,” Spoelstra said of the challenge of making Whiteside a better passer. “We look at [film of] others but we looked at a lot of his and understanding where the defense is coming from. Not necessarily double teams, just guys trying to gamble against him.
“The better our spacing is, the better his patience and awareness are, and the more reps that he gets, seeing the defense, he will evolve and grow the dimensions with his post game.”
Heat forward Udonis Haslem said he has talked to Whiteside about his passing and the key, when he gets the ball in the post, “is letting everything register before you make a move.”
Whiteside said he’s open to studying centers who are gifted passers.
Among the best: Boston’s Al Horford (first among centers in assist to turnover ratio last season at 2.46 to 1) and San Antonio’s Pau Gasol (second at 1.79 to 1, and first among centers with 294 assists).
“There are so many big men that can pass, but a lot of them guys, their usage rate is high,” Whiteside said. “[Brooklyn’s] Brook Lopez will touch the ball eight of 10 possessions; of course he is going to get a lot of assists. This is my first opportunity to really have that.”
The first goal is making more prudent passes and fewer foolish ones, simply having as many assists as turnovers.
Of the 34 centers with at least 60 assists last season, 21 had more assists than turnovers.
In his career, Whiteside has 36 assists and 200 turnovers in 140 games. But at least the effort is being made to address it.
So is this a skill that a player that can improve significantly?
“We believe [so],” Spoelstra said. “All of that is part of development. We don’t want to put barriers on somebody.”
NO TV SATURDAY
• Fox Sports Sun is televising six of the Heat’s eight preseason games. There’s no TV for Saturday’s game against Minnesota in Kansas City or the Oct. 15 game against Minnesota in Louisville.
The Heat will play three preseason games at AmericanAirlines Arena: Tuesday against Brooklyn, Oct. 18 against Orlando and Oct. 21 against Philadelphia.
• The Heat practiced in Houston on Friday for a second consecutive today to avoid complications from Hurricane Matthew. Guard Beno Udrih (back), forward Josh McRoberts (foot) and forward Stefan Jankovic (back) were limited, and Josh Richardson (knee) did not practice.
• The Heat will hold a four-quarter scrimmage at 7:30 p.m. Monday at American Airlines Arena, and proceeds from the $1 admission cost will benefit Miami Cancer Institute. Tickets are available on the Heat and Ticketmaster Apps and Ticketmaster.com. The game, which will be streamed on Heat.com, will be mobile-entry only.
The team has incorporated the color pink into the scrimmage for the third consecutive year in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. A halftime ceremony will honor South Florida breast cancer survivors.
For my Dolphins/Canes post this morning, on Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker and UM’s Stacy Coley, and efforts being made to extract more from each of them, please click here.... And please follow me on Twitter: @flasportsbuzz