Last season didn’t end well for the Miami Heat or Hassan Whiteside.
The Heat were bounced from the opening-round of the playoffs by the Philadelphia 76ers in five games.
Whiteside, who averaged 14.0 points and 11.4 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game in the regular season, managed just 5.2 points and 6.0 rebounds in 15.2 minutes per contest in the series.
Even though Joel Embiid posed a skill advantage over Kelly Olynyk and size advantage over both Bam Adebayo and James Johnson, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra played Whiteside 15 minutes or less in four of the five games, electing to play the other three instead.
After the series ended, Pat Riley told reporters that the franchise center “wasn’t ready” for the playoffs and “wasn’t in great shape”. As recently as last week, Riley noted that Whiteside “has a lot of work to do”.
Those comments came after Whiteside publicly criticized his role at one point towards the end of the regular season and again in the playoffs. Overall, it wasn't a good look for the highest-paid player on the team.
Since he has two years left on his four-year, $98.4 million deal, it would be very difficult for the Heat to trade Whiteside solely from a financial perspective. But, it doesn’t seem like they are considering that, especially due to the latest positive development in their relationship.
Last month, Whiteside, Riley and Spoelstra sat down and talked things out.
"We had a great talk," Whiteside told reporters on a conference call, per ESPN. "I just think it's trust on both sides. I think that's the biggest thing ... It was about a four-hour meeting. It was a lot about life. It was two hours basketball, two hours life. It was a good meeting."
It’s worth noting that a knee injury sidelined Whiteside for a large portion of last season, limiting him to 54 regular-season games. When he returned, the team restricted his minutes and, due to the development of Adebayo and emergence of Olynyk as well as Spoelstra’s desire to play small-ball in the fourth quarter, Whiteside rarely saw any minutes down the stretch of games.
Now seemingly healthy once again, it will be interesting to see what his role becomes in the upcoming season in Miami. While the team could obviously still decide to part ways with him before October, there’s no reason to doubt that he can return to his All-Star caliber form if he’s back to full health.