Written by Ira Winderman

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra offered nearly 3,500 words Friday at AmericanAirlines Arena recapping his team’s season.

But it was five that went directly to the question that had been marinating since Tuesday’s season-ending playoff loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

“I love working with Hassan.”

Based on Hassan Whiteside‘s limited role during the postseason and his team’s turn away from the center’s paint-based skillset, that had neither been clear in recent weeks or recent months.

Opening night, when Whiteside went for 26 points and 22 rebounds against the Orlando Magic.

That also was the night Whiteside went knee to knee with Magic center Nikola Vucevic, a bone bruise sidelining Whiteside initially for five games, then another 13, with a nine-game absence following later in the season due to a hip injury.

“The narrative and the storylines that will be out there, I do think are unfair about Hassan right now,” Spoelstra said, clearly braced for the question and prepared with his answer. “Because coming into the season, yes there was probably a different path from game one. The game he had against Orlando in Orlando, he was on track. He had a very good training camp, a very productive preseason. He started off on a great note and got hurt.

“And that’s the unfortunate part about it. It’s not about making any excuse for him, it is a reality. Players have to go through that from time to time, but he played six weeks with that not at a level that he wanted to. Then we had to sit him out for six weeks, and from there it just became uneven.”