The Trail Blazers 2019-20 campaign has gotten off to a bumpy start. Injuries and the integration of new players has not gone as smoothly as expected, leaving Portland with a 3-6 record after nine games. Of the new players on the Blazers, center Hassan Whiteside has become a target of scrutiny.
The Athletic’s Jason Quick spoke with Damian Lillard about his evolving relationship with Whiteside. Lillard explained that he is being patient with Whiteside and admitted that this situation is different from his bond-forming relationship with Jusuf Nurkic.
“I’m just being patient,” Lillard said. “Obviously, I’ve been working with (Jusuf Nurkic) for years, and Nurk came here at a time when he was young and hungry and he was excited to play with me. And I was able to tell Nurk, ‘Do this, do that.’ Hassan is further along in his career, so his habits are stronger. Like, the way he does things is just stronger. So I’m just approaching it with patience.”
Whiteside was targeted by TNT’s Inside the NBA crew on Thursday for his lack of effort in the first half. After the game, Whiteside defended himself by citing his statistical output. With that in mind, Quick spoke with Lillard about Whiteside’s stat-centric defense.
“Him scoring and him rebounding is important, but what you do has to impact the game,” Lillard said. “So I think he has a point and you have a point. If he doesn’t score 15 points, that’s 15 less points we don’t have. And if he doesn’t get 15 rebounds, that’s 15 less rebounds. But at the same time, you want that kind of production to be impactful.”
Lillard appears to be focusing on how Whiteside executes the little things, explaining that his output must go beyond the box score.
“What he is doing for us is meaningful, but we also have to get him to understand that the more things he does for us that are meaningful will really impact the team even more than just points and rebounds,” Lillard said.
Regardless of the Blazers’ rough start, Lillard explained that he views Whiteside as a good teammate.
“He’s been good. And that’s the thing — he’s a really good dude, a good teammate, he don’t cause trouble,” Lillard said. “It’s literally about him understanding ‘What am I doing that’s really impacting winning?’ That’s what it is. His points and rebounds are big, but just continue to improve. We all can do stuff better, and for him right now, you just can’t throw too much at him all at once.”
Whiteside is averaging 14.1 points and 13.3 rebounds per game to start the season. The 30-year-old center is in the final year of his four-year deal that he signed with the HEAT.
You can read Quick’s full story at The Athletic (subscription required).