The Miami Heat are looking for a big bounce-back win on Saturday night after getting beat up by the Boston Celtics in a 95-78 loss at home. However, nabbing a victory will be no easy feat, as the Heat face prepare to face the No. 1 team in the West, the Utah Jazz.
Turning up the drama, this game also marks the return of former Heat star Hassan Whiteside, his first visit to Miami as a member of the Jazz. The 7-foot center spent five seasons with the Heat, where he went from a relatively unknown player to franchise star, signing a four-year, $98.4 million max contract in 2016.
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Between 2014 and 2019, Whiteside averaged 14.1 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks in 324 regular-season games, as reported by Miami Herald‘s Anthony Chiang, but the former second-round pick out of Marshall University wasn’t happy during his last few years with the team.
In 2018, Whiteside got hit with a fine for an expletive-loaded rant complaining about the Heat, and in July 2019, was traded to the Portland Trailblazers for Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard.
In November 2020, Whiteside signed a one-year veteran’s minimum contract with the Sacramento Kings, before signing a similar deal with the Utah Jazz this past summer to become Rudy Gobert’s backup center.
Chiang spoke to Whiteside about his return to Miami this weekend. “It always feels different,” Whiteside said on Saturday afternoon. “It’s like a weird feeling. I was on the other side for so long. So it’s always a different feeling.”
But “different” doesn’t necessarily mean bad, as the veteran center still talks with his former teammates and Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra.
“UD, Bam, I still talk to them guys,” Whiteside said. “I even talk to Spo. I told him, ‘Happy Father’s Day.’ I still talk to them guys. There are no hard feelings. We broke up. We were in a relationship and we broke up. I don’t hate nobody.”
So Far, Whiteside Is Thriving With the Jazz
While Whiteside’s departure from Miami wasn’t exactly amicable, the 32-year-old baller seems to have found his stride in Utah.
KSL.com reporter Ryan Miller said Whiteside has “quickly become a locker room and fan favorite for his fun-loving personality and his infectious energy on the court.”
Jazz star Donovan Mitchell said of Whiteside, “He keeps everything light and continues to have a positive mindset and makes jokes about things that may get on your nerves. Like not getting foul calls. He’ll come in and be like, ‘Man, we ain’t getting (expletive).’ Everyone laughs and then we get over it and move on to the next thing. You need a guy like that.”
However, Miller couldn’t help but point out that Hassan has a history of making a strong first impression before getting frustrated with a franchise, and his level of playing bottoming out. But as for right now, all is good with the Jazz.
“It’s indicative of how much he cares,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “That emotion and that energy can feed a team, whether it’s making a physical play like the other night, making a block, getting excited about a play… Anytime you add emotion to competitiveness, that’s rocket fuel.”
There Were Rumors Whiteside Could Possibly Return to Miami Last Season
After the Heat acquired Victor Oladipo from the Houston Rockets and Nemanja Bjelica from the Sacramento Kings at the trade deadline last season, they still had two open roster spots and per league rules, needed fill at least one of them by April 8.
Miami was basically scraping at the bottom of the barrel of what was left in the buyout market at the point, and there was talk that if Whiteside received a buyout from the Kings, the Heat would have no choice but to seriously consider bringing the 7-foot center back to South Beach.
However, Whiteside did not get bought out, and rumors of his prodigal return were subsequently buried.