Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra has no doubts about Hassan Whiteside, moving forward.
No one is denying that Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside had a rough 2017-18 run.
Between falling victim to injury, coming back inconsistent and then airing out his frustrations over limited minutes to the media, the big man’s on and off court persona left much to be desired last season.
But head coach Erik Spoelstra isn’t holding it against him.
Nor is he worried that this upcoming year will result in history repeating itself.
In fact, he seems fully confident in the 7-footer.
“Let’s not forget who he was in the beginning of last year, how he started the season when he was healthy,” Spoelstra said at the team’s Monday Media Day. “But more importantly, how he was the season before. He was a major part of our team success in the second half of the season when we won 30 games, really having an impact on the court, as a teammate, learning really how to impact winning. I still see that guy.”
Uplifting words, especially considering that tension between the two parties were rumored to have run high heading into the playoffs.
If there ever was a problem though, it’s now water way under the bridge.
Because all Whiteside wants to do is help his team succeed; something he knows he can get back to doing, now that he’s healthy again.
“I feel a lot different,” Whiteside said. “I feel more explosive jumping. I feel more like how I’ve been in the past.”
A great sign no doubt, considering that the 29-year-old averaged 17.0 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks a game in 2016-17.
Numbers that Spoelstra himself has anything but forgotten.
“We need him. He knows that, I know that and again I haven’t forgotten about the player he’s capable of being. I don’t have a short memory.”
Although internally, things are back on track, both Spoelstra and Whiteside know what the narrative surrounding not just his game, but behavior, is still going to be.
After all, the media loves a good story, and don’t seem ready to cut the North Carolina-native any slack just yet.
“There will be a lot of story lines, every night. He and I know,” Spoelstra commented.
The good news?
They’re aware it’s all just noise.
Noise that can be cancelled out.
Right now, Whiteside’s focus is simply playing the best basketball he can.
That and making his first All-Star Game (which this year, will be held in his hometown).
While Miami Heat fans may not be welcoming their center back with open arms currently, soon they’ll have no idea why they ever lost love for him in the first place.