The Miami Heat is in the same wobbly boat that the Dallas Mavericks are in. Miami floats about near the basement of the East, Dallas floats about near the basement of the West.
If you think this is difficult to stomach in Dallas, consider the culture shock in Miami, where last season, the Heat - with a history as least as vaunted as Dallas' -- finished tied for third in the East and made the second round of the playoffs.
Maybe that's why Miami, despite mild denials being made by the club via the South Florida media, is willing to consider parting with Hassan Whiteside.
Dallas hasn't yet made the trigger-pull decision on where this season is going. But Miami is closing in on this, and NBA sources tell me there have in Miami been "feeler''-level conversations regarding Whiteside, the 27-year-old center who leads the league in rebounding at 14.4 per game and is fifth in blocks while scoring 17.5 points per game and shooting 55.5 percent from the field.
The Heat re-signed Whiteside to a four-year, $98-million contract this past off-season. the center spurning max offers from elsewhere -- including Dallas.
Why is Miami willing to consider parting with him? Maybe because even with those numbers, his night-to-night effort is spotty.
Why is Dallas presently disinterested in pursuing him? This is where this is a major story, a major angle and a major change in philosophy ... and not just because of Whiteside himself.
"Not interested there,'' a source tells DallasBasketball.com, "because of the pick we'd have to give up.''
Boom. What this single sentence reveals is three-fold, really.
1) It confirms that Whiteside is available, at some level, for some price.
2) The Mavs won't say it publicly, but the idea of being a 'buyer'' doesn't make much sense for where this franchise is. Or where it is going. This is a lotto team.
3) The Mavs understand the value of that high lottery pick ... and view the player that might be available, and the contract he can come available on, for the first four years and beyond ... and see it is exceeding what Whiteside brings.
We don't have to agree on Dallas' eval on Whiteside, and we can also ponder how the organization thought so highly of him just seven months ago. (Were they wrong then? Wrong now?) But what we can agree on is that despite public pronouncements about their disgust for ping-pong balls, there is a private understanding of their worth -- a worth that seemingly exceeds that of even a player like Hassan Whiteside.