Hassan Whiteside Is Trending and Not Because He Has Opted Out

Hassan Whiteside has a decision to make. If he opts-out the last year of his contract, he will make far less than the $27 million he negotiated with Pat Riley on the first day of free agency in 2016. If the money is the most important thing to Whiteside, he will stay put in Miami. Conversely, Whiteside may want a do-over, specifically a team where he can get ample playing time as a starter and see action late in the 4th quarter. In 2018-19, Whiteside had a four year low in points scored, rebounds, minutes, and a career low in free throw shooting, a wretched 44% at the line.  Whiteside may look around the league and decide he wants a different experience. He plays 70 games but his minutes are descending.

It will be dramatic if Whiteside opts out because his $27 million salary will exponentially drop. Whiteside, by his action, would be sending a message that financial security is less valuable than playing time. Objectively, Whiteside’s unhappiness with the Miami rotation, though valid, isn’t equal to the loss of $15 million. If he doesn’t know that, his agent surely does.

If Whiteside isn’t ready to relay opt-out news- he has until the end of June- there is no other reason for  Whiteside to make the news, from NBC to the Huffington Post to the NY Times. He is all over Google because Hassan Whiteside is caught up in someone else’s drama.

Michael Avenatti was the lawyer of Stormy Daniels and a frequent critic of Donald Trump. He never met a camera he didn’t like. He even flirted with a presidential run. But at the end of March, U.S. Attorneys in New York and Los Angeles charged him with bank and wire fraud and extortion. He hid $800,000 from the IRS, they allege. He tried to blackmail Nike. He stole money from clients. After U.S. Attorneys charged him, and Avenatti was arrested and then released after posting a $300,000 bond, a grand jury in Santa Ana, California indicted him on tax fraud and bankruptcy fraud.

It’s lawyer 101: You do not steal your client’s money”. U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna.

And that is how Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat got dragged into the messiness.  Whiteside had a girlfriend named Alexis Gardner. And then he didn’t. Whiteside and Gardener came to a compensation agreement of $2.7 million dollars. Whiteside gave the money in good faith to his ex-girlfriend’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, expecting the attorney to give it to Gardner. But Avenatti spent much of the money to buy himself a jet.

After the jet buying took most of Gardner’s money, Avenatti tried to cover his tracks by telling Gardner she would receive 96 monthly payments over 8 years, instead of handing over the $1.7 million that was negotiated. Avenatti deposited 11 payments in Gardner’s account totaling near $194,000. And then he just stopped paying her altogether, telling her that Whiteside wasn’t giving him any more money. Blaming Whiteside.

In court documents, Whiteside and Gardner are known as Individual 1 (Whiteside) and Client 2 (Gardner). Neither wanted any of this to be public and released a joint statement:

We entered into a mutual agreed upon settlement more than two years ago following the end of our relationship; a settlement that reflected Alexis’ investment of time and support over a number of years as Hassan pursued a career in the NBA. It is unfortunate that something that was meant to be kept private between us is now being publicly reported. We have both moved on amicably and wish nothing but the best for each other.”

As for Avenatti, he did what the accused do in this country. He professed his innocence and said he never embezzled from anyone, not Gardner, not a mentally ill paraplegic who won a $4 million judgment but only received $124,000. The list goes on and on, the Avenatti victims.

If convicted, he is eligible for a 324 year sentence.