The NBA suspended Heat center Hassan Whiteside for one game on Tuesday, a day after he was ejected for elbowing Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk in the back of the neck, and an apologetic Whiteside said he feels “terrible about it” and doubts this type of incident will happen again.
Whiteside, who has been ejected from two games in the past nine days, will sit out Wednesday’s game against the visiting Brooklyn Nets --- a suspension that will cost him $7000.
That means Whiteside --- who’s earning $769,000 this season --- has now lost $47,000 this season as a result of eight technical fouls, a fine and a suspension.
Whiteside apologized to his teammates after the Heat’s loss to Boston on Monday night and again before the start of practice on Tuesday. He said he also apologized to Olynyk and that Olynyk accepted “and wished me much success in the future.”
Addressing reporters about an hour before the suspension was announced, Whiteside apologized to the team and to Heat fans and said he must “do better keeping calm, keeping a level head.” His coach, Erik Spoelstra, said the team remains fully committed to the third-year center.
“It’s probably the worst 12 hours of my life,” Whiteside said. “I let my personal stuff on the court affect the team. I feel like I let [the team] down. It can’t happen again. It was just a terrible decision on my part.
“It was such a far journey for me and I felt I took some steps back. I’m better than that. It’s been a really frustrating 12 hours and I regret it a lot.”
Monday’s ejection came a week after he was ejected for grabbing the legs of Phoenix center Alex Len after Len had pushed him aside. Both players were ejected but neither was suspended.
“These are my first two ejections in my life,” he said. “I had never been ejected before. It’s not a good feeling. I’m in the locker-room watching the game feeling it’s all my fault.”
Asked what led to Monday’s incident, Whiteside said “it was a buildup of things, from getting elbowed in the face on the first play on my first block. A couple of shots to the face on the rebound. I let it get out of hand…I told Kelly I didn’t mean to hurt him.
“I’ve got to take the hits and hope the refs just keep me safe out there. I’ve got to do better. I’m starting to realize I’m a bigger name in the NBA than what I was. [But] it’s kind of frustrating when random guys are hitting you in your face. People in the scouting report are probably saying, hit this guy with a couple of cheap shots and let’s see what he’ll do. I’ve got to just take it and hope the refs see it.”
Several people spoke to Whiteside afterward, including Spoelstra, Heat executive Alonzo Mourning and teammates Udonis Haslem, Michael Beasley and Luol Deng.
“There was nobody really angry with me. ‘It was more, you’ve got to do better,’” he said.
Spoelstra said the organization is “not turning our back on him. He’s not on an island. This is a symbiotic relationship. We’re here for him. He knows we still value him, still want to invest our time and effort in him to improve as a player and he wants to do his part. And he wants to be a part of it….
“Hassan has a great heart. We’ll be able to figure it out. We are going to correct it with him. He wants to and he knows we need him. [But] he needs to be accountable to every other player and staff member in the locker room.
“He’s a very competitive person. Now it’s about channeling it in the right way. He’s not the first player to ever go through this. There’s a long list of guys in similar situations. But he really wants to do right by the team. I have had no issues with Hassan in practice, preparation. He’s met all the standards we talked about in my first meeting with him.”
Asked if the team had considered anger management classes, Spoelstra said only: “We’re going to work through this with Hassan. He wants to help the team. We want to help him. We’ll correct it and move forward.”
Dwyane Wade was critical of Whiteside after Monday’s game, saying he was “very” disappointed in him and that “if he continues to act that way, then he’s not reliable.”
Wade had a softer tone Tuesday.
“He’s still a kid. He’s going to learn,” Wade said. “He’s a sincere kid. He’s not meaning to do it. It’s just something new to him. He has to figure it out on his own. He’s going to get advice from everyone. Everyone is going to be in his ear. But at the end of the day, he has to figure it out on his own.
If he wants to, he will.
“It’s knowing the game he’s playing. It’s a big boy’s game you’re playing now. You’re good. You like to dunk on people, be dominant, be aggressive and people are going to be that way back. He has to understand this is his new life created by his talent. He’s got to understand big guys are going to get fouled hard. He’s a genuine guy. He’s a nice guy. That’s my job as a leader, get on him. But we don’t turn our backs on anyone. We’re going to help him through it.”
Haslem said he didn’t need to scold Whiteside.
“I’m always calm with Hassan,” Haslem said. “He’s not a guy I feel I have to jump all over and attack. He’s a guy you need to approach and tell him man to man and be up front and honest with him. You don’t have to raise your voice. It’s genuine.”
### Guard Goran Dragic said he’s hopeful he will play Wednesday after missing two games with a tailbone injury. Haslem, dealing with assorted injuries, said he also plans to play. Spoelstra was non-committal on Chris Andersen, who has an ankle injury.