After missing five games with a bone bruise on his left knee, Whiteside opened the 97-91 victory over the Chicago Bulls with seven points and nine rebounds in his initial 10-minute stint. He ultimately would close with 13 points and 14 rebounds in 26:22, kept on a time restriction by coach Erik Spoelstra.
“It was different,” he said, “because it had been such a long time since I played five-on-five. But I felt like I contributed in the best I would out there.”
He acknowledged fatigue was a factor, having been sidelined since the Oct. 18 season-opening loss to the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center.
“A little bit,” he said. “A little bit toward the end. But I expected that to come, because I’ve just been running in the pool, so it’s hard to duplicate an actual NBA game.”
He said his body would let him know his time limits going forward.
“It just depends on how I’m going to feel,” he said. “You know, I expect it to be sore. But that’s what treatment is for.”
He said the contact required an adjustment.
“I guess just playing against people, playing against the guys and getting use to doing a lot of sliding and running up and down like that,” he said.
He revealed he hoped to be back Monday in what turned into a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“No pun intended, they just didn’t want to throw me to the Wolves. See what I did there?” he said. “So I was hopeful for that game. But unfortunately, I couldn’t get out there. But this game, I was happy I was able to at least get a home game for the crowd.”
Because the next six are on the road, starting Friday at altitude in Denver.
While he didn’t expect to be out nearly two weeks, he appreciated that it was better to limit the injury to a single absence.
“I just didn’t want to try to rush out there and I hurt the team, especially the way I’m playing and then making it worse,” he said of his physical nature. ” So we were just taking our time with it and just letting the bruise heal.”
It turns out he was getting teased inside the locker room about his timetable.
“The last three days I was asking him, ‘Whitey when you coming back? When you coming back?’ ” guard Goran Dragic said. “It was nice to have him out there. You could see he was a little bit tired. But it’s huge when he’s on the floor. It changes completely. It’s different dimensions of the game.”
Guard Dion Waiters took it a step further.
“It’s a game-changer, man,” he said. “I think he grabbed eight rebounds in two minutes or something crazy. So if you got a guy back there like that, a lot of times guards got to think. Like tonight, I saw a couple guards hesitate just because of his presence and that’s huge for us.
“Once he gets his wind and gets back to the swing of things and we keep coming around and we keep building off this and we keep getting better one game at a time, it’s a marathon, man.”
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Hassan Whiteside winded but glad to be back and contributing – Sun Sentinel