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Two years after Heat departure, Hassan Whiteside says there are ‘no hard feelings’

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 11/7/2021 Anthony Chiang, Miami Herald

It has been more than two years since the Miami Heat traded center Hassan Whiteside to the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2019 offseason as part of the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade deal.

Since then, Whiteside has played for three different teams.

Whiteside, 32, returned to Miami to face the Heat on Saturday night as a member of the Utah Jazz. After spending last season with the Sacramento Kings, he signed a one-year contract for the veteran minimum salary with Utah this past offseason to serve as the Jazz’s backup center.

“It always feels different,” Whiteside said Saturday afternoon of returning to Miami to face his former team. “It’s like a weird feeling. I was on the other side for so long. So it’s always a different feeling.

“I remember when I first signed here and just the energy of the crowd from the playoffs from ‘White Hot.’ Just having D-Wade and [Chris] Bosh before he retired. Just having that crew and just getting that first time in the playoffs. That was my first playoff game, first playoff series. Just the atmosphere, the fans and the crowd.”

Whiteside spent five seasons with the Heat from 2014-19, averaging 14.1 points on 57.5 percent shooting, 11.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 324 regular-season games (259 starts). He joined Miami as a relative NBA unknown in 2014 and played well enough to sign a four-year, $98 million max contract with the Heat in the summer of 2016 to become a franchise cornerstone.

Whiteside led the NBA with 14.1 rebounds per game in 2016-17 and led the NBA with 3.7 blocks per game in 2015-16. But it still didn’t work out in Miami, as he expressed frustration about his role multiple times during his Heat tenure and drew a fine for one expletive-filled rant in 2017-18.

Eventually, Bam Adebayo took over as Miami’s starting center toward the end of Whiteside’s time with the Heat. After falling on the depth chart as the highest-paid player on the team, it became evident that Whiteside needed a fresh start elsewhere and he was traded to the Trail Blazers that summer.

“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.”

Whiteside has embraced his role as Rudy Gobert’s backup with the Jazz. Whiteside entered Saturday averaging 6.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 15.9 minutes per game this season.

A connection Whiteside built with the Heat helped lead him to the Jazz. The opportunity to be on the same side as former Heat teammate Dwyane Wade was appealing to Whiteside, with Wade purchasing an ownership stake in the Jazz earlier this year.

“It’s a special feeling. Having D-Wade, seeing a familiar face like that,” Whiteside said. “He was a part of me even wanting to come to the Jazz. I don’t know what I would have been without D-Wade. D-Wade, I don’t think he knows how much he means to me.”

As for Whiteside’s take on the current Heat roster, he believes “this team is going to come out of the East.” And Whiteside didn’t just say that to win over Heat fans after he was met by loud boos and a “We got shooters” chant from the crowd in his first game back in Miami in January 2020.

The “We got shooters” chant stems back to the day Whiteside was traded to the Trail Blazers in 2019. After the trade was finalized, Whiteside posted a video on Instagram of himself shouting, “We got shooters!” out of excitement over joining guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in Portland.

Jazz teammates jokingly yelled “We got shooters” at Whiteside as he spoke to reporters following Saturday’s shootaround at FTX Arena.

Whiteside just smiled.

“If they’re mad at me about saying that a team that can shoot can shoot, I’ll take that,” Whiteside said of the chant. “It don’t take away from what I did and what this city meant to me. I still live here. It was nothing to me.”

LOWRY AVAILABLE VS. JAZZ

Heat point guard Kyle Lowry was in the Heat’s starting lineup Saturday against the Jazz. He was listed as questionable for the contest because of a sprained left ankle.

Lowry, 35, exited Thursday’s loss to the Boston Celtics early after teammate Duncan Robinson fell into his left ankle at the end of the third quarter. But Lowry was able to play two days later against the Jazz.

Forward KZ Okpala was also available for the Heat on Saturday after missing the previous two games because of a sprained right ankle.

Max Strus (sprained left knee), Marcus Garrett (G League assignment) and Victor Oladipo (right knee injury recovery) remained out for the Heat.

The Jazz had star guard Donovan Mitchell and forward Royce O’Neale available against the Heat. Both were listed as questionable with ankle injuries.

Utah was without Elijah Hughes (non-COVID related illness), Rudy Gay (right heel injury recovery) and Udoka Azubuike (G League assignment).

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