MIAMI — The NBA announced Tuesday that Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside will be suspended one game without pay following his ejection Monday night against the Boston Celtics.
A remorseful Whiteside spoke to a large media crowd surrounding him at the conclusion of Tuesday’s Heat practice to express his regret over his actions.
"I felt like I let (my teammates) down and it can’t happen again," said Whiteside. "We’re in a playoff hunt and it was a terrible decision on my part. I just want to apologize to everybody and the Heat fans. I apologized to the coaches and the team."
He has now been ejected twice in his last four games and has already totaled $40,000 in fines this season, including $15,000 for his first ejection after fighting with Phoenix Suns center Alex Len on March 2. In a difficult stretch of his short NBA career, he was also benched during the Heat’s improbable comeback in the second half from a 35-point deficit in an eventual loss to the Washington Wizards last Friday.
His coach and the rest of the team have publicly expressed concern for his recent behavior, but have shown support for him as well. Whiteside said teammates Michael Beasley, Luol Deng and Udonis Haslem have been especially helpful with their words of encouragement and their advice as of late.
"He’s still a family member," said head coach Erik Spoelstra, who didn’t rule a team fine or suspension if the NBA had not acted on the matter. "It’s another learning opportunity. We’re going to correct it with him. He wants to, he knows we need him."
Whiteside said he personally reached out to Celtics center Kelly Olynyk to say he was sorry for the blindside hit that was called a flagrant 2 foul and earned him an immediate ejection. The Heat would go on to lose the game, which was critical for their playoff hopes.
"Just because it was such a far journey and I feel like I took some steps back and I’m better than that," he said of why he was so contrite. "I regret it a lot.
"I’m starting to realize I’m a bigger name in the NBA then what I was so it’s still a learning experience for me. I’m talking to the veteran guys and I’m talking to Alonzo (Mourning). It’s just a process.”
While he still maintains he is getting fouled hard in the paint and isn’t getting enough calls, he recognizes his actions are unacceptable no matter the circumstances.
"It’s frustrating when somebody is hitting you in the face and you want to just come back and do the best you can and they keep you from it," said Whiteside. "It gets frustrating at times but I’ve got to do better keeping calm and keeping a level head because if I get ejected, it hurts everyone."
Dwyane Wade had some tough words for his teammate after the game, but has repeatedly stressed the fact that Whiteside has not been a problem with the team on or off the court since his arrival midway through the season. Having played alongside dominant centers such as Shaquille O’Neal and Mourning in his career, he knows that opposing teams will stop short of nothing to try to get in their heads.
"He just has to understand it’s going to happen," Wade said. "Big guys that are dominant and that are aggressive in their own right and like to dunk on people, they’re going to get fouled hard. There’s going to be a lot of stuff that he’s going to have to overcome. He’s a genuine guy, he’s a nice guy. So he’s just got to understand that and he’s still young. He’s learning it in front of everyone’s eyes."
Though he claims these are the first ejections ever in his basketball career, he assured the large media group assembled around him that he has learned his lesson and does not want to harm his team going forward because of his attitude.
"It happened, there’s really nothing I can do about it," he said. "You can dwell on it or you can move on from it and just show people that you’re not that kind of guy. I’ll use this as a learning point."