Barry Jackson

Heat pushing for more from Whiteside; more Waiters/Wade comparisons

adiaz@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Heat notes, as Miami begins a home-and-home with Cleveland:

• Heat coaches aren’t the only ones eager to see even more from Hassan Whiteside.

Told that Whiteside’s three assists against Philadelphia last week tied a career high, a dumbfounded Tyler Johnson said: “That’s his career high? I’ve got to say something to him.

“It's weird because he's so dominant but he has so many more facets of his game that he has to unlock and could unlock to be an even better player. And that’s definitely one of them.”

Whiteside has 39 assists, 119 turnovers this season and 75 assists, 319 turnovers in his career. Nobody expects him to become as skilled a passer as the Gasol brothers, but more is needed.

“He's always been a good passer, but it's the timing of his passes,” Udonis Haslem said. “If he has two feet in the paint, he's got to go straight up. If he gets it off the block, he has to be a little patient, let our guys cut” and then make the right pass.

Though Whiteside had 15 points and 18 rebounds in Friday’s loss against Orlando, he was twice removed from the game as Erik Spoelstra looked for a defensive spark. He sometimes failed to go to the perimeter to guard Magic center Nik Vucevic, who scored 25. And the Magic’s 64 points in the paint were its most since a game in February 2015.

• The 36-year-old Haslem, whose leadership is invaluable, has decided he wants to play next season. After receiving $4 million this season, he likely would play next season for the minimum, which rises to $2.3 million for 10-year veterans.

Rarely playing “is a bigger sacrifice on my end than people realize,” he said. “People probably think he's old and can't play that much but I can give you a solid 15 minutes and still average what these guys average off the bench, seven points, six rebounds. I can do that in my sleep.”

• In a column last week, we mentioned the Heat’s potential summer choice between Dion Waiters and Dwyane Wade (if Wade opts out of earning $23.8 million from Chicago), and here are two other points to consider: Waiters has been the better defender, allowing the player he’s guarding to shoot 39.9 percent (five points less than what that player typically shoots), compared to Wade’s 42.6.

Also, the Heat – entering the weekend – was outscoring teams by 79 with Waiters on the floor, best on the team. (Okaro White is No. 2 at plus 63.) Conversely, the Bulls have been outscored by five with Wade on the court; conversely, they’re a plus 147 with Jimmy Butler.

Associates won’t be surprised if Wade returns to the Heat at some point. But it would need to be at the Heat’s price, if at all.

• Waiters had his worst game in weeks on Friday, scoring three points and 1 for 11 shooting.

“I haven’t had one of these nights in so long,” Waiters told reporters afterward. “But you need it to get back in the lab, work. I’m pissed that we lost.”

• The Heat enters Saturday’s game against Cleveland 1.5 games behind Detroit for the final playoff spot. If Miami misses the postseason, it can blame three losses to Orlando and two to Philadelphia.

• The Cavaliers will be without Kevin Love and JR Smith against Miami on Saturday, and Cleveland said newly signed center Andrew Bogut won’t make his Cleveland debut until Monday’s home game against Miami.

Most of the bench players being used by Cleveland were added during this season - former Heat forward Derrick Williams, Kyle Korver and Deron Williams.

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