Miami Heat big man Hassan Whiteside continuing to put the team first

ORLANDO, FL - OCTOBER 18: Nikola Vucevic
ORLANDO, FL - OCTOBER 18: Nikola Vucevic /

Miami Heat big man Hassan Whiteside may have played a great game against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night, but the loss meant more to him.

Hassan Whiteside went “Barbara Walters” in the season opener against the Orlando Magic. But all he could focus on was the Miami Heat’s first loss of the year.

“Barbara Walters” refers to the center recording at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game, something he did for the eighth time on Wednesday. He finished the evening with 26 points and 22 rebounds in 36 minutes, shooting 11-of-18 from the field.

He even went 1-for-1 from downtown, making for the first 3-pointer of his professional career.

Just a casual move from the 28-year-old.

And yet, despite his impressive stat-line, Whiteside wasn’t pleased.

"“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. We let ‘em get a couple easy in transition… 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.”"

The matchup certainly wasn’t pretty. Between guys obviously not yet comfortable in their new rotations, a lack of defensive effort and Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters combining for 13-of-36… the loss was inevitable.

Even with the North Carolina-native holding it down.

"“Hassan was great,” head 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.”"

While his contribution wasn’t enough to lead the team to victory, it was still nice to see the big man so active on both ends of the floor. Even though last season, Whiteside averaged 17.0 points and 14.1 rebounds a game in 32.6 minutes of play, the biggest complaint against him was regarding consistency. The center seemed aloof at times, not entirely focused on what was in front of him. Something that certainly wasn’t case versus the Magic.

Another silver-lining of the loss comes from the fact that Whiteside is continuing to put the team first. When No. 21 first entered the league, he was more focused on his own numbers, desperately wanting to prove he belonged. After being overlooked time and time again, he had a chip on his shoulder. He was out to show all the teams that passed him over, that they’d made a mistake.The team’s success wasn’t as important as his own.

But that has all changed.

Now, that doesn’t mean Whiteside wasn’t excited to be the first player since 2007 to record at least 20 points and 20 rebounds on an opening night. Especially given that his favorite player, Kevin Garnett, was the one to last do it. The loss just meant more.

Next: Miami Heat Roundtable: Checking in after a loss to the Orlando Magic

Hassan Whiteside played a great game against the Orlando Magic, but what’s more important is that he’s still putting the Miami Heat first.