When the Kings inked veteran center Hassan Whiteside to a one-year contract in the offseason, it was with the understanding that he would provide some rim protection after leading the league in blocks last season. Whiteside has swatted away a few balls, but he also brings a certain amount of comic relief to the squad as well.
Whiteside routinely posts videos of his Kings teammates on Instagram. His main target is rookie Tyrese Haliburton, whether it’s for his choice of shorts, bringing cold Krispy Kreme donuts on the plane or his choice of NFL quarterbacks.
“He wears little shorts, he got ugly shot, but he making it work,” Whiteside said. “He like Aaron Rodgers over Tom Brady. This guy’s out of control right now.”
Whiteside likes to keep Haliburton honest on his rookie duties. From getting towels for the team to delivering donuts, the veteran big likes to keep Haliburton on his toes. It’s all in fun and he has nothing but positive things to say about the 20-year-old guard.
“On the court, he’s got a chance to be one of the top point guards in the league one day,” Whiteside added.
With the Kings off to a rough 6-10 start, having a player like Whiteside around may not be a bad thing. He has a good spirit about him and he clearly likes to make his teammates laugh.
“I like messing with the rook, I love messing with all the guys,” Whiteside said. “These guys are a great group of guys. They’ve all got great personalities, that’s why I want to see them win.”
The 7-footer has missed the last four games with a hip strain, but he said he’s feeling much better and should be ready to play when the Kings take on then Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.
With NBA All-Star center Nikola Vucevic having another tremendous season for the Magic, the Kings could use Whiteside’s size and shot-blocking ability.
“It’s good to have him back, he does what he does very well and at a high level,” coach Luke Walton said. “We missed him.”
With Whiteside back in the fray, two-way big man Chimezie Metu is likely headed back to the bench as the Kings’ third center. The 23-year-old impressed in his limited opportunity and the Kings believe he has a future in the league.
“We think Metu is going to be a very solid player,” Walton said. “He’s young, he needs experience, he needs some time, but he’s an extremely hard worker. The coaching staff loves having him around.”
This likely won’t be the last we see of Metu in the Kings’ rotation. Between injuries and roster adjustments between now and the trade deadline, there is always a chance that the Kings will need minutes from him.
If the season continues down the same path, with the team struggling to pick up consistent victories, there will likely be a moment when Walton shifts gears and focuses on his younger players on the roster.
For now, Whiteside and his 7-foot-8 wingspan and big body will get minutes, even if they come in short bursts. His ability to alter shots and clog the lane is elite. Even with the Kings coming off a season-best 14 block performance without him in the lineup, the Kings can use an interior stopper.