Hassan Whiteside had a lot of reasons not to go to Orlando, but he went

Dwight Jaynes
·3 min read

Hassan Whiteside led the NBA in blocked shots and rebounding and shot 61.8 percent from the field for the Trail Blazers in the pre-pandemic part of the season. And he's going to be a free agent next season.

He seemed to be a prime candidate for sitting out the remainder of the season -- protecting those stats, staying healthy and knowing that with Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back, his playing time may be shortened.

Was it a tough decision to finish the season?

"Wasn't difficult for me," he said Monday in an Internet media conference from Orlando, where his team is getting ready to finish the season. "I just knew it had to happen, I wanted to be here for the team and just finish the season out right.

"It wasn't a difficult decision for me. I'm used to facing adversity. I've played everywhere. I played overseas, I played in China, I played in the G- League. I mean, I've played everywhere."

And because of injuries to Nurkic and Collins, he was the only seven-footer on the team for most of the season. Now, he's suddenly one of three. How will it go if he finds himself on the floor with Nurkic, something Coach Terry Stotts said is possible? 

"I don't know,"  he said. "I haven't really thought too much about it. Me and Nurk have been playing a lot on the court. It's been me and Zach, me and Nurk out on the court,

"I didn't think that much into it. I'm just excited those guys are back. We've got a lot more size down there now. We switched up the defense a lot.  It's a lot different down there.

"I've got to actually pump fake in practice."

Whiteside has always been a center, but playing alongside either Collins or Nurkic may force him out on the floor a little more than he's accustomed.

"My chemistry is a little better with Zach," Whiteside said. "I had a training camp with him and two or three games. I've never played with Nurk. The way we play, though, it's easy."

Defensively, expectations are high, especially at the rim, that this team will be much improved with the added size.

"It's a relief," Whiteside said. "It's good to have all those guys back there. It breeds confidence in you as a defender. You can be a lot more aggressive in the pick and rolls. There's a lot more rim protection behind me. The paint will be locked down more."

Whiteside can be a funny follow on social media and he's spending time with video games and his social accounts, Oh, and learning a new language.

"Trying to learn Spanish now," he said.

And how is that going? How much does he know?
"Piquito," he said. "I've learned a little bit."

And he's trying to make sure, in this sequestered environment, that he gets enough to eat.

"It's tough when you're a bigger guy," he said. "I gotta have a lot of food."

And now that Collins and Nurkic are back, he's not the only one who needs a big meal.

Hassan Whiteside had a lot of reasons not to go to Orlando, but he went originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest