Keeping Hassan Whiteside a top priority for Heat president Pat Riley
MIAMI (AP) -- Hassan Whiteside fell into Miami's lap, and the Heat want him to stay there.
For good measure, they remain hopeful Chris Bosh can return as well.
Retaining Whiteside will be Miami's top priority in free agency this summer, Heat President Pat Riley said in his end-of-season remarks Wednesday. It's not necessarily a surprise, given that Whiteside led the NBA in blocked shots by a wide margin this season and was a key in helping the Heat finish with No. 3 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs.
"He's a game-changer," Riley said. "I don't even think he's reached his real ceiling."
Whiteside's story is unique, in how he bounced around with NBA clubs, NBA Development League teams, even teams in China and Lebanon before finally finding the right fit in Miami. And he's blossomed since, so much that his $981,000 salary from this season will seem more like his weekly rate over the next handful of years.
"Your offense is only as good as what you do at the defensive end," Riley said. "You want to explode out of there? Then you better make some stops, you better rebound the ball. And that's why Hassan is so important to us in a lot of ways. He'll block shots, he'll rebound the ball, he'll change 10 other shots, he'll scare the hell out of about four or five other people coming into the paint and he's got some intangibles that simply you just can't find."
Whiteside is one of two big questions surrounding Heat big men this summer, of course. Bosh's status as he tries to find a way back from a second consecutive early ending season because of blood clots remains unclear, though Riley reiterated that the team will continue helping him however it can.
Bosh's last two seasons have ended at the All-Star break, both times because blood clots were found. The clot in 2015 went to his lung, requiring hospitalization and causing other serious health issues. This year, a clot was found in Bosh's calf and dissipated within weeks after he resumed taking bloodthinners.
Bosh has missed 81 games in the last two seasons, mostly because of the clot issues. For perspective, point guard Goran Dragic has played in 112 games since the Heat traded for him in February 2015 -- and has played with Bosh in only 44 of them, or 39 percent.
"All of us, not just the Heat but the doctors and also Chris are looking to proceed forward to find a way to get him back on the court," Riley said. "I think that's all we can say right now. We are very encouraged by trying to find a way over the next two or three months to find a protocol and a program that will get him back playing.
"That's always been our objective. We're in this together. So right now, that's where we are. It's an X-factor when it comes to everything we plan on doing this summer. But first things first, and that's to sidle up alongside of Chris Bosh and see where we can go right to the end with this."
That X-factor Riley spoke of is not insignificant.
Whiteside may get the first call at 12:01 a.m. on July 1 when free agency begins -- a gesture that will be both symbolic and significant -- but the Heat will surely be looking at landing more stars. Dwyane Wade will be a free agent, though he wants to stay and the Heat want him back. Riley also said Miami wants Udonis Haslem back for a 14th season.
The question becomes, again, who can Miami surround them with.
"It will be fun in July," Riley said. "We'll see. I hope it'll be fruitful for us."