Published On: Fri, Aug 19th, 2016

Spoelstra challenges Whiteside: 'Absorb more responsibility'

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Steve Mitchell / USA TODAY Sports

Expectations are about to change in a big way for Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside, who is getting a more dramatic pay increase this coming season than anyone in the NBA.

The 27-year-old big man made under $1 million for the Heat last season – fast forward to this campaign and he is set to earn over $22 million in the first year of a four-year, $98-million maximum contract.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is challenging Whiteside to become a more complete player and live up to his billing as a max player.

“He will be working on all of it,” Spoelstra said. “Low-post scoring, that’s the number-one thing he wants to work on, and I’m all for it. He will also work on his skill level at the top of the floor, handling the ball, getting us into second situations as a playmaker, rebounding off the glass.”

Whiteside dished out just 30 assists last season, and has recorded just 36 in his 140-game NBA career, so focusing on his playmaking development seems particularly sensible. But Spoelstra expects the 7-footer to hone more than just his hard skills.

“Just continue the overall development with his body, working on his conditioning, getting stronger while maintaining his weight and flexibility,” the coach said. “And he will have to be able to absorb more minutes, more responsibility, more games, which is a different level of training in the weight room. …

“Hassan and I have really grown to get to know each other, the process of an NBA season, of competition, of ups and downs, of trying to reach a different level, to trying to learn how to shoulder more responsibility to help a team win. And in order for our team to accomplish what we want to accomplish, Hassan has to continue to improve and maximize his potential.”

Since the Heat took a flier on in him with a partially guaranteed two-year deal in late 2014, Whiteside has averaged 13.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks per game, with an elite 25.8 PER.

To this point, he’s never had the luxury of taking anything for granted, having been cast off by the team that drafted him (the Sacramento Kings) after just 19 games, and having spent the intervening years kicking around the D-League, summer league, the Chinese league, and even the Lebanese league.

Spoelstra is optimistic that Whiteside’s desire to work will continue to burn, even with the comfort and security of a lucrative long-term deal.

“The best thing about our process with Hassan is it was a two-year introduction, and we’re able to really learn about each other for two seasons,” Spoelstra said. “I was very impressed with Hassan’s motivation, his work ethic. He wants to be great. He’s not afraid of putting in the time, either.

“Where he started to where he finished up at the end of two years is remarkable, his improvement. And we look for players that commit to the process, commit to getting better. And Hassan has committed to the process of trying to get better every single day.”

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