Heat center Hassan Whiteside had held his tongue most of the season amid the frustration of diminished playing time.
That restraint ended Saturday.
In the wake of a 110-109 overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Whiteside criticized Heat coaches for often benching him late in games when the opponent plays a small lineup.
Whiteside played just 20 of a possible 53 minutes Saturday and didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter or overtime.
Asked how tough it is to watch from the bench when the opponent goes small, Whiteside said: “It’s annoying. We shouldn’t. Why are we matching up? We’ve got one of the best centers in the league. Why are we matching up?
“A lot of teams don’t have a good center. They are going to use their strengths. It’s bull [expletive]. It’s really bull [expletive], man. There are a lot of teams that can use a center. [Expletive]. That’s one of them. That’s bull [expletive].”
Asked if he tried to discuss it with one of the coaches during the game, Whiteside said: “I don’t know if it’s because I’m on a minutes restriction. The minutes have been like that all year. It’s really frustrating. It’s been frustrating. It’s tough. I don’t know, man. It’s crazy. I don’t understand it.”
Asked if this has made him question his future with the Heat, Whiteside said: “I don’t know. Maybe.”
Whiteside - who had 14 points, six rebounds and two blocks Saturday - then was asked who he should take that up with - management, the coaching staff or his agent.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know.”
A Heat public relations official then ended the interview.
Whiteside, playing his second game back after missing nine with a strained hip flexor, began the brief postgame interview calmly.
Asked if removed himself from the game just 4:40 into the first quarter because he was winded, Whiteside said: “You’ve got to build your conditioning backup. Coach wanted me to sub myself out as soon as I felt really winded.”
Spoelstra, who spoke before Whiteside’s rant, said Whiteside is rebuilding his stamina after the absence.
“It will get better,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not where it was when he left against Philly, his last game. He’s probably say something different. But game action is game action. You can do all you want behind the scenes. But you got to get those minutes in games. He had some good moments tonight. They went to the smaller lineup and it always comes to that. Does the speed lineup get to size or size get to speed? And their speed got to our size for a little bit.”
Whiteside has missed 28 games because of injury this season and is averaging 25.4 minutes per game this season, down from 29.1 and 32.6 minutes per game the previous two seasons.
Whiteside said earlier that he has had at least two private conversations with Spoelstra about his minutes this season.
Whiteside said he was appeased during the All-Star break when Spoelstra said he would be more willing to allow Whiteside to play through mistakes.
But frustrations boiled over Saturday.
Some numbers to consider:
• Whiteside doesn’t have enough minutes to qualify for several league statistical categories. But if he did, his minutes per game would rank 18th among NBA centers who have played a lot. Not a single center ahead of Whiteside in average minutes earns more than Whiteside.
• Whiteside is making $23.7 million this season, tied with Andre Drummond, Anthony Davis and Bradley Beal for 19th in the league. Drummond is second among centers in average minutes at 33.5, behind Karl Anthony Towns’ 35.5.
• Whiteside’s 26.4 points per 48 minutes ranks 10th among NBA centers.
• According to basketballreference.com, the Heat allows the fewest points per 100 possessions with Whiteside on the court than with any other player, and scores the fourth-most points with Whiteside on the court than any other player.
• Whiteside ranks 11th on the Heat (last among rotation players) and 311th in the league in average fourth-quarter minutes at 5.9. (That only counts the games that Whiteside plays at all in the fourth quarter, not the games where he was benched or injured.)
•ESPN’s complicated formula rates him 16th among all NBA players in efficency rating this season.
• But according to stats kept by Foxsports.com, the Heat has been outscored by 76 points with Whiteside on the court this season. That’s second worst on the team behind only Dion Waiters, who was a minus 83 before season-ending ankle surgery.
But the Heat is five games above .500 when Whiteside plays, just .500 without him.
Whiteside has two full seasons remaining on a four-year, $98 million contract.
He’s due $24.4 million next season and has a player option for $27.1 million in 2019-20.
If he opts out of his contract in the summer of 2019, the Heat would still need to remove another major salary off its cap to have room to bid on a max free agent that summer from a group that could include Kahwi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and Kevin Love.
Saturday’s rant could make the Heat more inclined to consider trade options during the offseason.
Meanwhile, the Heat’s magic number remains one after Saturday’s overtime loss. Here are some other takeaways from the game.