Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has already forgotten about last season.
An injury and frustrating year is a thing of the past. Whiteside is ready to move on and work his way back to proving he is capable of being a franchise player.
“I feel great,” Whiteside said, speaking on a conference call to promote an exhibition game in Africa. “I feel a lot better than I did during the season. I’m completely healed. I feel like my regular self again.”
Whiteside battled a knee injury last year and averaged just 25.3 minutes. He often was on the bench during the fourth quarter and was a non-factor in the Heat’s first-round playoff loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
“I wasn’t healthy all last year,” Whiteside said. “I was in and out of the rotation with injuries. Just coming back healthy. Coming back from a bone bruise, it takes months to heal.”
Whiteside met with coach Erik Spoelstra and President Pat Riley a month ago. He said the outing was productive and helped resolve some of their differences.
“We had a great talk,” Whiteside said. “I just think it’s trust on both sides. I think that’s the biggest thing … It was about a four-hour meeting. It was a lot about life. It was two hours basketball, two hours life. It was a good meeting.”
Last week, Riley reconfirmed his trust in Whiteside, saying the organization still has confidence in him. The Heat have every intention of continuing forward with Whiteside, who is the team’s highest-paid player. He said he is confident his production and playing time will increase.
“I think the biggest thing is I just want to be out there,” Whiteside said. “It wasn’t about nothing else. I just wanted to be out there as much as possible. I think (I’ll play more) because I’ll be healthy. Last year, I wasn’t healthy.”
Whiteside said he is content with the Heat’s offseason moves. Although they didn’t make any major acquisitions, they re-signed guard Wayne Ellington and are waiting on Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem to decide if they want to return.
Whiteside is also eager for the opportunity of once again team with guard Dion Waiters, who missed most of last season after undergoing ankle surgery.
Waiters is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in September.
“I’m excited about coming back healthy this year and having Dion coming back healthy,” Whiteside said.
Whiteside was accompanied by Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard on the Africa trip. He also reunited with former teammate Luol Deng, who is also participating in the event.
“I told him I want to guard him during the game,” Whiteside said. “Luol is one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. Getting to see him is probably one of the most exciting things.”
Whiteside said he will return to South Florida immediately after Saturday’s game. In the meantime, he said the experience in Africa has been enjoyable. The highlight was a safari trip with fellow NBA players.
“The coolest thing probably was just seeing a rhino and seeing a group of hyenas eat a zebra,” Whiteside said. “Seeing that was pretty incredible.”