Hassan Whiteside doesn’t want to be that guy who puts individual accomplishments over team success.
He’s learned that isn’t the Miami Heat way. He’s made it his way too.
It’s why he was bummed after the Heat’s 116-109 loss to the Magic in Wednesday night’s season-opener despite dropping 26 points, 22 rebounds and a block in 36 minutes and 14 seconds worth of sweat and grind.
There were too many defensive lapses to feel good after this loss.
“We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and look at the film and see the opportunities that we missed on defense and just learn from it,” he said. “We let ‘em get a couple easy in transition.”
Wednesday’s 20/20 was the eighth of Whiteside’s career. The Heat unfortnately haven’t won very often when he’s had nights like that.
Miami is 3-5 when Whiteside goes what he calls ‘Barbara Walters.’
So, it’s why despite the stellar performance, an empty feeling persisted for Whiteside and his coach.
“Hassan was great,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “[But] it shows you if you don’t defend those numbers are empty. [Hassan] could score 40 and have 30 rebounds. But if we don’t defend and do it with a team defensive concept of doing your job and trusting the next guy to do their job then it’s empty. Those are empty numbers.”
Whiteside agreed. But he also wasn’t panicking over the Heat’s rough start on defense.
Yes, the Magic shot 48 percent from the field and scored 56 points in the paint including 11 on fastbreaks.
But Whiteside knows the Heat can play much better and had they played even just a little better Wednesday they might be opening up a six-game homestand Saturday night against the Pacers 1-0 instead of 0-1.
“I think guys are going to get back on track,” Whiteside said. “I'm not overreacting to this game. Guys are going to look at film and say ‘Oh. That’s where we messed up.’ I made a couple mistakes. Everybody made mistakes. So, guys are going to look at it and fix it.”
Whiteside, 28, acknowledged his primary mistake: struggling to get out and defend Magic center Nikola Vucevic when he and forward Evan Fournier ran the pick-and-roll. It’s a problem the Magic have posed many a time for Whiteside.
Fournier finished with 23 points and Vucevic had 19 points and 13 rebounds.
“I think they made it tough because a lot of it was Fournier coming off [a screen] with Vucevic flaring out,” Whiteside said. “So stopping the ball and then running out before Vucevic got his shot, it was really tough.
“There were a lot of things they were doing. [Magic] coach [Frank] Vogel is a great coach. He ran a couple things that were really tough to guard.”
The Heat, which finished third in field goal defense (45.5%) and fifth in defensive rating (104.1) last season, don’t normally have nights as bad as they did defensively on Wednesday.
So Whiteside is confident it will get fixed – quickly.
“We’ve got to watch film and get all the guys in their position,” he said. “It’s not just one guy who was in the wrong position. It was everybody. Because our defense is on a chain and we need to get back on that chain. We will.”
▪ There was one stat that brought somewhat of a smile to Whiteside’s face – the fact he became the first player since Kevin Garnett in 2007 to score at least 20 points and grab at least 20 rebounds on opening night.
“That’s crazy,” Whiteside said in a private moment with The Miami Herald after the game. “Garnett is my favorite player all-time. Garnett is part of the reason I wear No. 21. He’s one of my favorites. Just his intensity on the court, I strive to be there.
“I’m trying to become a better player, better defender, everything. Garnett did some amazing things. I think a lot of people forgot how amazing Garnett was.”