Hassan Whiteside is the Portland Trail Blazers starting center.
Guess what? He already has the support of Blazers point guard, Damian Lillard.
I told Lillard that I thought Whiteside had something to prove and that’s where he chimed in.
“I agree,” Lillard told me.
“I think he’s dealt with some injuries, has had a few bumps in the road the past years in Miami.”
In 72 games last season, Whiteside averaged 12.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 12.0 minutes 53 in MIA.
A second round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Whiteside was part of part of a four-team trade with the Heat, Philaelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers that sent Jimmy Butler from Philadelphia to Miami, Josh Richardson from Miami to Philadelphia and a future first round draft pick goes from Miami to the Clippers.
It is the belief that Whiteside, 30 will be able to hold down the big man role for the Blazers while big man Jusuf Nurkic finds a way to return from his March injury.
Nurkic sustained season-ending compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula last season in a game against the Brooklyn Nets.
While attempting to tip in a teammate’s missed shot, Nurkic came down awkwardly in traffic, causing his leg to bend between the knee and ankle. The Blazers big man finished that game with 32 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and two steals.
He’s a stat stuffer and he’s expected to make a February 2020 return.
In the meantime, Hassan Whiteside is in an ideal situation in Portland.
Lillard likes Whiteside’s chance in Rip City. “Coming to our team is a perfect opportunity for him,” Lillard told me.
“Right now it’s a time that we need him to be our center, Nurk is going to be out for a while. He [Whiteside] does something that we need, which is to protect the rim. He’s also a lob threat. He’s an athletic big that can run the floor.”
The Portland Trail Blazers had a Cinderella season last year.
Led by Lillard’s 25.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists and C.J. McCollum’s 17.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists, Terry Stott’s Blazers finished the regular season with a 53-29 record and a third seed in the NBA Playoffs.
“I like Portland in the Finals,” Barkley told me last season.
NBA Hall of Famer, Gary Payton was just as vocal about Lillard:”He’s got that swagger,” he told NBA scribe, Landon Buford.
“And that dog in him, but he is going to keep going at people.”
Not a bad choice by the legends!
Worth noting: Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum alone combined for an average of 46.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.9 assists during the regular season while turning the ball over only 4.2 total times per game.
The Blazers lost to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA’s Western Conference Finals. Lillard believes that Hassan Whiteside may be the finishing touch to a potent roster that also added veteran and NBA Champion, Pau Gasol to their explosive team. “He matches up with my age and CJ’s,” Lillard told me.
“So in a contract year, I think in order to make it, we’ll have a great season for him.”
Hassan Whiteside will make roughly $27 million in the final season of four-year contract.
The Portland Trail Blazers begin training camp this month. The NBA’s preseason and regular season begin next month.