Hassan Whiteside will be the most sought-after big man in free agency starting Friday. While Miami Heat will prioritize bringing back the center, they face heavy competition from a long list of suitors including the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks.
“I really don’t think it’s about loyalty — I think it’s just about (finding) the best situation for myself,” Whiteside said Sunday, while acknowledging that he will meet all potential suitors before arriving at a decision.
“I didn’t say (Miami) wasn’t the best situation, but we’re going to see what happens. It’s not like I’m really counting the Heat out or counting on another team. It’s just open,” added Whiteside, who averaged 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3. 7 blocks last season at an amazing PER of 25.69.
According to ESPN, the Mavericks, Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors are among the teams ready to make a strong run at the shot-blocking phenomenon.
Tough task for Miami Heat…
Since Miami Heat don’t own Whiteside’s Bird Rights, they can’t go over the cap to sign the rim protector to a maximum contract. Therefore, Heat boss Pat Riley could be forced to let a few of his integral role players walk. While the Heat would prefer to re-sign Luol Deng and Joe Johnson, they are strapped with cap space issues since retaining Whiteside and Dwayne Wade take precedence.
Last month, Riley reiterated that retaining the league’s best shot-blocker is his team’s No.1 priority. ESPN writes: “The Heat can sign Whiteside to a maximum contract worth $98 million over four seasons, which is slightly more than any outside suitor could offer the athletic 7-footer.”
Hassan Whiteside loving the attention…
A few years ago, when Whiteside was still a D-Leaguer, he attended a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers. As fate would have it, the Lakers were stupid enough to let him walk and join Miami Heat. Whiteside actually wanted to be a Laker.
As it stands, the Lakers are desperate to land Whiteside. “I find it flattering, because in my past, I was trying to call those teams and now it’s the other way around. It’s a flattering experience and I’m thankful for this opportunity,” said the seven-footer.
When asked if money or team role would influence his decision, Whiteside said: “It’s a toss-up; it’s a lot of things that come into it. It’s not one specific thing. It’s like having a wife. You can’t say one specific thing you like about her. You have to like her as a whole. I have to choose it all together, so all of the dots have to connect.”
Hassan Whiteside is expected to command a starting salary of as much as $22 million next season.