Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported Saturday that the Los Angeles Lakers plan an aggressive pursuit of Miami Heat's unrestricted free agent center Hassan Whiteside in free agency. Whiteside is expected to have suitors across the NBA after his meteoric rise over the past two seasons. In an unusual situation for a player in high demand, the Miami Heat do not have full Larry Bird Rights for Whiteside, which means they cannot go over the salary cap to sign him.
Stein and Shelburne note that the Blazers and the Mavericks are specifically interested in a free agent meeting with Whiteside:
ESPN.com reported earlier this week that the Dallas Mavericks also intend to be a serious suitor for Whiteside, with Dallas expected to land one of the first recruiting meetings Whiteside conducts in the opening hours of free agency. The Portland Trail Blazers are another team that has been linked with Whiteside and there will surely be others.
As one of the most available free-agent big men on the market, Whiteside has been covered regularly at Blazer’s Edge. Recently, Dane Carbaugh discussed whether Whiteside would be the best fit for the Blazers’ system. Chris Lucia, David MacKay and Brandon Goldner debated it in their weekly podcast. Erik Gundersen, then-beat-writer for the Columbian, discussed it on Blazer’s Edge Radio on X-RAY FM 107.1. And Dave Deckard discussed the idea in a mailbag way back in October.
Last but not least, the Blazers’ own CJ McCollum had a little fun trolling Heat fans on Twitter about Whiteside’s future in Miami.
Whiteside has openly stated his love of the Lakers and Clippers' home, Staples Center, as well as the Knicks' legendary Madison Square Garden. The Lakers may have a unique advantage.
Whiteside on Lakers in March, "I feel like [Madison Square] Garden and the Staples Center are like the two biggest places to play . . . "— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) June 25, 2016
" . . . I feel like those places are just special just because there are so many celebrities and everybody is there."— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) June 25, 2016
However, Whiteside has also voiced other priorities that might be more Blazer-friendly.
ESPN reporting Lakers are going to pursue Hassan Whiteside. In January, Whiteside told me this about free agency: pic.twitter.com/PxHEqQzEfy— Jesse Blancarte (@JBlancarteNBA) June 25, 2016