At some point over the last week — as Hassan Whiteside dropped three-straight Drake diss-track-games on New Times and other "haters"
Meek Mill-asses — I realized I somehow had become the "they" DJ Khaled so often warns his
I most definitely played myself.
Recently when asked about a column that appeared in this space at this time last week suggesting that the Miami Heat might just be better off without the combustible center, Whiteside asked that people not pick and choose what evidence they'd like to present in the court of public debate.
"I know you all have been big on my defensive rating when I'm on the court." Whiteside said. "It was a lot better in January. And just when people tell half the story . . . tell the truth. If you're going to tell a story, tell it right."
That's a legitimate request. Whiteside, for all he has been through to get to this point in his career, deserves as much. Especially from Miami Heat fans.
And in fact, it is easy to tell half the story when you're unaware there is another half to the story. Just as the #WithoutWhiteside fire was burning at it's highest last week — all predicated on the idea that the Heat play better defense without the seven-foot shot blocker — ESPN dropped a cold bucket of "Well, shit" water on it. Whiteside was ESPN's January Defensive Player of the Month. Left had become right. Up had become down. Hassan Whiteside had become the most important defensive player on any court over the last month, much less one the Miami Heat were playing on.
Over the first two months of the season, Miami’s defense allowed over eight more points per 100 possessions with Whiteside on the court. That trend did a 180-degree turn in January, with the Heat allowing just 96.8 points per 100 possessions with Whiteside on the floor, and 102.7 points per 100 possessions with Whiteside off the court. That figure with Whiteside on the floor would have led the NBA in January.
That ... was surprising to find out. January had been a bad month for the Heat. Until Whiteside was injured. Then they finished the month hotter than they had been all season. It seemed as if they were a better team without their seven-foot stat-stuffer clogging the paint, and many experts said as much.
They pounded us with advanced stats that seemed to paint the picture of a player who was more interested in looking good in a box score than looking good in the standings.
They claimed Whiteside was doing more bad than good by clogging up the paint on the offensive side.
They started plugging Whiteside into, in retrospect, ridiculous ESPN Trade Machine scenarios.
What "they" had not accounted for was an apparent change in offensive philosophy, one that seemed to be just what the Heat needed. It just happened to coincide with Hassan Whiteside sitting in a suit on the bench. Whiteside knew this, and he made sure to tell us all this.
And then he came back. Holy shit did he come back. Three games. Sixty minutes. Thirty points. Twenty-nine rebounds. Fifteen blocks.
Whiteside came back with the fury of a thousand suns covered in angry alien bees. It was as if Hassan Whiteside was replaced by the human form of the Miami Heat logo and said logo was feeling it NBA Jam style. This week, Whiteside looked like an adult dropped into a high school gym.
And he's yet to start a game since coming back from injury. Some say it's because the Heat
What's more encouraging than Whiteside's monstrous numbers are the reports of his new-found thirst for attention to detail and defensive communication. Again, all of this is coming while dealing with, and accepting, a new assignment that calls for him to come off the bench.
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Whether it be anger toward his critics or the unselfish on-court maturity everyone has been hoping for — it happened. All that matters for Heat fans
And that's the entire story.