DENVER – Staring off into the distance sat a Trail Blazers big man who looked deep in thought after Thursday’s game.
It was Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside, sitting there with his knees wrapped in ice and both feet ankle deep in a bucket of ice – that’s the norm for the Trail Blazers 7-footer.
But something was different.
After the Nuggets defeated the Blazers by 15 points, Whiteside sat alone looking as if he was searching for answers. Pondering.
In the first and third quarters in Denver, it was really all about Whiteside’s dominance at both ends of the floor.
Despite the big fella going off for a career-high 33 points, he was trying to figure out why his team didn’t come away with a win.
There’s stretches when we look amazing and then there’s stretches where they go on big runs… They was hitting threes, they was making us pay, and we would over help, and that’s pretty much what happened. -- Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside postgame
Whiteside’s 13-point first quarter on 6-of-8 shooting and six rebounds helped the Blazers keep pace with the Nuggets early on.
He also hit his first and only three-attempt this season, punctuated with a dab (or three).
Trail Blazers fans may have been surprised to see him hoist up three, but Whiteside was ready for the moment.
“I shoot them all the time [in practice]. So, when it is a situation like that I feel comfortable…. I hate when people always saying, "why you working on that? You don’t do it in a game." Well, maybe that’s why you work on it.”
It's obvious that Whiteside has put in the work this season, and he and Damian Lillard have put in the work together on the offensive end.
Whiteside's performance didn't go unnoticed Thursday.
Lillard, who shot just 2-for-9 from three, gave his big man props.
He had a great game. They put a lot of attention on the ball and he was coming open all night and he scored early, and all throughout the game he made those short floaters, he made some jumpers, made free throws, I thought he played a good game. -- Trail Blazer point guard Damian Lillard on Whiteside
“He looked good." CJ McCollum added. "He finished around the basket. He rebounded. I thought he took advantage of how they were guarding him in the pick and roll and he capitalized."
Whiteside is putting up career numbers across the board this season from points to rebounds to blocks. He became the first Blazer with 10+ rebounds in 10 straight games since Buck Williams Thursday night.
He believes the success has been there in the first part of the season because of Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and his teammates believing in him.
“I got a coach playing me,” Whiteside said. “Coach has been playing me and letting me play out there. My teammates trust me and I worked on it all summer."
Trust can go a long way.
But, now Whiteside and the rest of the Trail Blazers are pondering why they haven’t been able to put together a consistent game on both sides of the floor even if they are trusting each other.