A night after 76ers center Joel Embiid again leveled verbal shots against Heat center Hassan Whiteside for at least the third time this season, a restrained Whiteside made clear he was disinclined to respond Friday.
With a couple of exceptions.
To recap: Early in the third quarter, Whiteside and Embiid had a brief tussle running down the court, with Whiteside appearing to shove Embiid’s back and Embiid responding. Whiteside was charged with a technical foul, whie Embiid was whistled for a fouth foul.
“He tried to hit me in the back, which is kind of dirty because of the fact that I’ve had back problems,” Embiid said after the game, a 108-99 Heat win. “We’re going to see about that. I won’t forget about that. That fourth foul, I don’t remember touching him. Even after the replay, I don’t know what they were looking at. … I didn’t think I touched [Whiteside]. But then they called a technical foul on him because obviously he’s the one that made a dirty play. … He hits really soft, so I didn’t feel anything. But just the action of him trying to like do that I think is pretty messed up.”
Asked about Embiid calling that play dirty, Whiteside said Friday: “I was falling forward, he tried to throw an elbow, I put my hand up and my hand hit my face.”
Beyond that, Whiteside indicated he wasn’t going to continue to engage Embiid in verbal warfare.
“I ain’t got nothing to say,” Whiteside said.
Any motivation in playing Embiid?
“Another dude,” Whiteside said. “He just talks more.”
Does he talk to Embiid?
“I’m not talking no more,” Whiteside said. “No more talking. No more talking. 2018, when he talks, no more.”
Of their minor tussle, Spoelstra said: “It probably could have been called a double foul. They got tangled up. Embiid grabbed Hassan and Hassan is actually the one that yanked his arm and hit himself. He gave himself a flagrant foul.”
Spoelstra declined to discuss Embiid’s comments but said “I love the Hassan Whiteside we saw last night out there competing, fierce, playing to an empty tank. Those were 28 full minutes. I don’t know if he could played over 30 minutes at the intensity he was playing last night. That’s the whole point. Whatever minutes you have, play as hard as you can and look what happens. He has been putting in a lot of time.
“It’s about his approach, his behavior, his habits every single day. Eventually you get the results you’re looking for. It starts with the behavior and the habits. I’m really encouraged with the way he’s been going in that direction. The competition level was high and fierce. I like that guy.”
Embiid and Whiteside - who insulted each other on Twitter last October - ended up playing three games against each other this season, with Miami winning two of those. Embiid had 51 points and 26 rebounds in those games, Whiteside 46 points and 28 boards.
Charles Barkley said on TNT’s Inside the NBA on Thursday night that Whiteside gave a butt “kicking” to Embiid.
Shaquille O’Neal also weighed in briefly, which Whiteside appreciates.
“That means a lot; Shaq is a Hall of Famer,” Whiteside said. “He’s one of the best bigs ever to touch a basketball. Anytime he says anything good about me it definitely means a lot. I always looked up to him. Even how he dunked the ball, the two hands, try to pull the rim down. I got that from him. Ever since I was a little kid is was always taught to dunk it through people, dunk it in their face. Just keep dunking on them. Just keep dunking on their face.”