Before the Heat was snubbed in All-Star selections, no team in 25 years had been in the top four of the Eastern Conference and not had an All-Star at the time of selections.
And that left the Heat’s Hassan Whiteside perplexed.
“You know, it’s confusing,” Whiteside said Wednesday of the fact that bunch of teams with worse records than Miami had players selected for the All-Star Game. “I get confused about it sometimes. Is it about stats? Or is it about winning?
“Certain guys, they say, ‘Oh, he’s winning. His team’s winning, so we put him on there.’ Other guys, he’s got good stats but his team sucks. So what is it about? I just [need to] understand what it’s about.”
Of the teams with the 15 best records in the league, the Heat is the only one without an All-Star selection.
So is this reflective of a league-wide lack of appreciation for the Heat?
“Yeah, I always felt like that,” Whiteside said. “A lot of people look over Miami. So I feel like that a lot….We’ve got All-Stars. They just didn’t get voted in.”
Whiteside believes it’s also a byproduct of the Heat’s lack of national television exposure. Miami has had only ESPN appearance this season, against San Antonio, and had another telecast (against the Knicks) replaced by a Boston-Minnesota game. Miami has had no TNT appearances this season.
“It got a lot to do with it,” Whiteside said. “The NBA pushes teams. The NBA pushes guys. The media pushes people. There’s teams all got Christmas games that stink, so I’m not going to say what teams, but you all know those teams that shouldn’t be playing on Christmas. But a lot of NBA teams push guys into starting.”
Goran Dragic, who was unavailable for comment Wednesday, had the best chance of an All-Star invitation but didn’t seem bothered by being bypassed, tweeting an emoji of a beach view after getting the news.
He previously said he would be fine spending all star weekend on vacation. There’s a chance he could be selected for the game if a player on the Eastern Conference roster must drop out due to injury, with NBA commissioner Adam Silver charged with naming replacements in that scenario.
“We know deep down inside that Dragon is the All Star and champion,” James Johnson said. “Having him in an All-star game wouldn’t change anything in that locker-room. We still cherish him and respect him. He’s an All-Star to us.”
Multiple players said the Heat can draw motivation from this.
“Nobody’s bothered or upset about it,” Wayne Ellington said. “The one thing it would do is continue to motivate us to work... Hopefully when the season comes to an end they’ll be saying, ‘man,’ point to somebody on our team and say, ‘that guy should have been an All-Star.
Asked if this could be used as fuel, Johnson said: “We always use everything as fuel.”
But Johnson said he doesn’t perceive this as a lack of respect for the Heat.
“Never,” Johnson said. “Not at all. This team, the 2017-18 team, what did we really do to be noticed or people are coming around to practices? We didn’t do nothing yet. We’re on the right track to going that way though.”
Whiteside downplayed the motivation issue, sauing “my motivation is to keep Pat Riley and Coach [Erik Spoelstra] happy.... We’re going to continue to climb the ladder. The goal wasn’t to make the All-Star team. The goal is to win a championship.”
Said coach Erik Spoelstra: “We’re better in strength in numbers, we’re better with our depth, we’re better when more guys are a threat and more guys are involved. That’s just the strength in reality of our team. This is a team sport. That’s the way it should always be. That doesn’t mean we don’t have great players. So we have bigger aspirations than just trying to prove to people that, hey, we should have had All-Stars.”
The Heat still has a chance to have representation during All-Star weekend, with Ellington a strong candidate for the three-point contest.
Asked if he believes he should be in the three-point contest, Ellington said: “I feel like I put the work on. I’ve never been in it before so maybe I didn’t put enough work in.... It would be great [to be in it]. It’s been one of my individual goals coming into this league to get into the 3-point contest … and win it most importantly.”
But the NBA did not select Heat rookie Bam Adebayo for the Rising Stars Challenge, which features 20 first- and second-year players competing in an exhibition during All-Star weekend.
• The Heat listed guards Dragic and Tyler Johnson as probable for Thursday’s game against Sacramento. Dragic has missed two games with a bone bruise on his knee, Johnson four games with a sprained ankle. Both practiced Wednesday.