When the Miami Heat signed center Hassan Whiteside to a maximum contract extension in the summer of 2016, it became obvious that they were relying on him to lead the franchise out of the glory days of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade and into a new era.
Last season, his first under his new deal, Whiteside delivered in a major way, averaging 17.0 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 32.6 minutes per contest over 77 games, firmly establishing himself as one of the best centers in the entire NBA.
However, this season has been a different story for one simple reason: he isn’t healthy.
Through 15 games played, he’s still averaging a double-double with 14.9 points and 12.7 rebounds per game, but he has gotten just 26.8 minutes of playing time.
While a second-half benching against the Golden State Warriors certainly contributed to that low number, the team has been cautious with him since he suffered a bone bruise on his left knee during the season opener against the Orlando Magic.
All of a sudden, Whiteside appeared on the injury report in advance of Wednesday night’s game against the New York Knicks and it appears as though the same knee is still giving him trouble.
"It's really bothering me, man," Whiteside said at his locker at Madison Square Garden, per Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel. "We're going to figure it out. We're going to figure it out when we get back to Miami and figure out what's wrong.”
"It has really been bothering me throughout the season. It had been bothering me since Orlando," he added.
That is certainly troubling to hear from the face of the franchise.
After the original injury, he sat out for five games before making his return, but it seems as though he might have rushed back on the court. "You know, I sat out, I missed them games, I came back, and it's still bothering me,” Whiteside admitted.
When asked if the pain was worse while running, jumping or in any other aspect of the game, the big man responded, “Everything, man, everything.”
Despite Whiteside’s troubling comments, head coach Erik Spoelstra downplayed the injury.
"It's the same thing he's been dealing with the last three weeks," the Heat coach said. "Since he's been back the days in between have been recovery days."
"So the back to back anticipated he probably wouldn't play today," Spoelstra noted. "We'll get back to Miami and reevaluate him [Thursday]. Jay will look at him and might have doc will look at him. We don't think necessarily right now he’ll have an MRI. He's already gotten one of those… This is part of the process. We anticipated this. It hasn't gotten any worse, necessarily, just the schedule hasn't let up and he really hasn't been able to do two days of work in a row for a while."
After Wednesday’s game, the Heat will host the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night, the Golden State Warriors on Sunday and then will embark on a three-game road trip. It remains to be seen if Whiteside will take the floor for any of those games.