Sports

Mavericks may have inside track to Miami Heat free agent Whiteside

AP

After hearing what Hassan Whiteside said when he met the Miami media over the weekend, the Dallas Mavericks probably feel pretty good about their chances of signing the Heat’s free agent center.

Whiteside played in the National Basketball Development League three times, and also was waived three times in the NBA. Then he finally received an honest chance with the Heat, where he flourished the past two seasons.

To an outsider, that would seem like Whiteside is totally indebted to the Heat and is all set to re-sign with them because they are the team which put him in position to earn a four-year, $94.1 million free agent contract. But, not so fast.

On his Snapchat last Friday, Whiteside wrote: “I’m a businessman that plays basketball.’’

And when he talked to the Miami-area media over the weekend, Whiteside didn’t exactly sound like he owed the Heat anything.

“I really don’t think it’s about loyalty,” he said of his free agent destination. “I think it’s about the best situation for myself.”

Well, that probably had balloons falling from the American Airlines Center ceiling. That statement alone means the Mavs know they have a legitimate chance at Whiteside, who averaged 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and an NBA-high 3.7 blocks per game this past season.

Whiteside wants to be a team’s No. 1 free agent option, and hinted this season that he wants to be a bigger part of the offense. He’s definitely earned that right.

The Mavs are desperately trying to make superstar Dirk Nowitzki the second-best player on their team. And Nowitzki, likewise, doesn’t mind being the second-best player on the Mavs at this stage of an illustrious career which will be in its 19th year next season.

If the Mavs can beat the odds and land Whiteside, he will definitely be their No. 1 option. They will tailor their offense around him and make sure he gets between 15-20 field goal attempts per game.

It’s what the Mavs had planned for DeAndre Jordan last summer during free agency before he mysteriously bailed on them and went back to the Los Angeles Clippers and settled into that comfortable, pressure-less No. 3 hole behind Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

The Mavs want Whiteside to be The Man. They want the 7-foot, 265-pounder putting up gigantic numbers and making repeated trips to the All-Star game.

The Mavs also believe Whiteside will be a very key piece in their quest to win another title before Nowitzki, 38, retires.

Here’s another thing working in the Mavs’ favor:

After the season, Heat president Pat Riley said Whiteside was their No. 1 priority in free agency. Now comes word that Oklahoma City superstar Kevin Durant has the Heat as one of the six teams he plans to visit during free agency.

So, is Durant — arguably the third-best player in the NBA behind LeBron James and Stephen Curry — at the top of the Heat’s free agent wish-list? Or is it Whiteside?

It’s either one or the other. It can’t be both.

It’s like choosing between two boyfriends/girlfriends you really, really like. In the end, one of them is going to be your second choice.

It is what it is.

If you went into the off-season saying Hassan Whiteside was your No. 1 priority in free agency and suddenly Kevin Durant wants to have a heart-to-heart meeting with you during free agency, is Hassan Whiteside still your No. 1 priority? Rocket scientists have this one figured out.

The word on the streets of Miami is that Whiteside wants to be the No. 1 free agent option. He wants his ego massaged, he wants folks telling him how great he is.

If you had to make a choice, and you had to choose between saying Whiteside is your No. 1 free agent option or Durant is your No. 1 free agent option, exactly what would you do?

Fortunately for the Mavs, they don’t have to make that choice. They want Whiteside ... and Durant wants no parts of the Mavs.

Portland and the Los Angeles Lakers are the other teams currently linked to Whiteside via free agency. But the Mavs are assured of getting a free agent meet and greet conversation with the 27-year old freak of nature, who is a lethal game-changer, especially at the defensive end of the floor.

Whiteside will meet with the Mavs in the early stages of free agency, which begins Thursday at 11:01 p.m. CDT. When the dust finally settles, the Mavs just hopes the “businessman that plays basketball’’ will do what Jordan wouldn’t do last summer and decide to find a comfortable home in North Texas.

Dwain Price: 817-390-7760, @dwainprice

Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com

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