A six-pack of Heat notes on a Thursday:
▪ The Heat is unsure what is going to happen with Hassan Whiteside's future here but plans to be fully prepared for a possible return if a suitable trade doesn’t emerge.
A source in touch with the Heat’s front office said it’s considered 50-50 at best — perhaps less — if the Heat will be able to trade Whiteside because his value around the league is diminished.
Meanwhile, an NBA friend of Whiteside said Whiteside has not asked for a trade and is very much open to making it work here, even after expressing dissatisfaction with his playing time on multiple occasions last season. Though he wants to play more, he still likes playing in Miami. The disagreement with Erik Spoelstra regarding usage is professional and not personal.
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The Heat remains committed to take steps to ensure that Whiteside and Spoelstra are on the same page so that the relationship can work if Miami isn’t able to trade him, a person briefed on the situation reiterated in recent days.
That process already has begun — though as of Monday, there had not yet been a major collective summit among Pat Riley, Spoelstra and Whiteside.
Miami is expected to explore trade options for Whiteside, but the number of teams who could have interest – and have much to offer in return – are limited. Sacramento, Portland, Dallas and Milwaukee are among teams that might be a fit.
One hypothetical trade — we emphasize, hypothetical — that would work within the cap is a deal that would send Whiteside to the Bucks for John Henson (due $10.5 million and $9.7 million the next two years) and Matthew Dellevadova (due $9.6 million each of the next two years). But it’s unclear if either side would have an interest in that.
Though there remains sentiment among some basketball people inside the Heat to move on from Whiteside, the Heat is prepared for the possibility that trading him might not materialize. Indications are Riley isn’t merely going to give him away for bad contracts; he still sees a way this can work with Whiteside.
"There has to be an intervention, and I'm going to be the intervener. That's real," Riley said at the end of the season.
Whiteside, for his part, is highly motivated to improve his game, not only specific skills, but overall athleticism and quickness, according to the friend. So that’s encouraging.
▪ There is no appetite to trade Goran Dragic — and the Heat would very much prefer to keep Bam Adebayo and Josh Richardson. But as Riley has said, no one on the roster is untouchable and any could be offered if a superstar becomes available.
Though the Heat ideally would like to keep Justise Winslow, too, there’s an understanding internally that he might be needed if Miami can put together a package for a high-end player.
The Heat is prepared to get involved in discussions for any All-Star player who has been made available — not only Kawhi Leonard and DeMarcus Cousins but potentially DeMar DeRozan if the Raptors consider trading him. The Heat called about DeRozan early in 2016 free agency.
▪ Four years after LeBron James left for Cleveland, interest in the NBA Finals remains strong in South Florida.
Among 58 metered markets, Miami-Fort Lauderdale’s 14.3 rating for Game 3 ranked 11th. Miami’s 15.8 rating for Game 2 ranked sixth. Both ratings are higher than local ratings for some Dolphins games and nearly all UM football games in recent years.
▪ Asked to guess where LeBron James will play next season, Chris Bosh said on Colin Cowherd’s show that he expects James to join the Rockets. But Houston would need to move significant salary or get Cleveland to agree to a sign-and-trade to execute that.
Philadelphia’s chances to lure James could be boosted if the 76ers hire David Griffin as general manager to replace Bryan Colangelo, who agreed to resign on Thursday. Charles Barkley insisted on NBA TV on Wednesday night that James would be a poor fit with the 76ers’ roster.
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith — who was the first to report in 2010 that James coming to the Heat was a real possibility — said Thursday:
“LeBron James is going to have a conversation with the Cleveland Cavaliers. They can offer him the most, and they are willing to do anything they can to keep him here, etc. etc., and obviously the wife is going to have a major, major say in things. So you got that going on. He's going to have a conversation with Boston. He’s going to have a conversation with Philly. Obviously the Lakers. Houston’s in the mix as well. They are going to go after him. Make no mistake about it.”
Smith said he also expects James to have a conversation with Golden State this summer.
▪ James referenced the Heat in his NBA Finals post-midnight NBA Finals postgame news conference Wednesday.
Asked whether it’s mentally draining to face a team like the Warriors, James compared it to the Heat-Spurs NBA Finals in his final two years with Miami, with each team winning one of those series.
"Well, I can take you back kind of to the battles I had with the Spurs when I was in Miami," James said. "You just knew that they wouldn't beat themselves. You just knew that like every possession we were playing San Antonio when I was in Miami, you just knew if you made a mistake, Manu, Tim, Tony, Pop will make you pay.
"At times, they did make us pay, and then you sprinkle in what Gary Neal did to us one game, what Danny Green did to us one game. Then Kawhi, you just couldn't — you could never relax. When you have great basketball players that can also think the game and be very cerebral about the game, that's what adds the level of stress, because you know that you can never, ever relax.”
▪ Why did the Heat give James Johnson a four-year, $60 million contract last summer instead of a deal shorter or for less money? There was concern that Denver or Utah could swoop in and sign him.