CHICAGO - With 40.5 seconds left to play and his team down, 103-90, against the Orlando Magic at the American Airlines Arena, Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside inexplicably waltzed toward the locker room without waiting for the final horn.
A bursting bladder that required emptying did not spark the sudden urge to leave the bench. It was something more critical, a package to unload.
"My stomach's been bothering me. I don't know if it was something I ate," he told The Miami Herald while attempting to enlighten reporters about his escapade the morning after. "But I think the situation kind of made it a bigger deal because we were down 15, I guess."
No. Hassan, the deficit didn't make it a larger deal. The naked stunt did, because it was an egregious disregard of team protocol and a malicious slap on the face of competitive sportsmanship.
Which is why Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called the mutiny an "unacceptable behavior."
We've all had our share of bathroom emergencies and when those situations arise, we usually run like Usain Bolt in the final strides of a 100-meter dash. But Whiteside's strut was slow and deliberate, evoking no hint of desperation.
Ergo, I don't believe Whiteside's bathroom tale one bit.
I think he abandoned his teammates because he couldn't stomach the fact that for the sixth consecutive game, he was benched in the entire fourth quarter. I didn't just pull that theory up my behind. Last April, according to CBSsports.com, Whiteside was fined by the Heat for his profanity-laced rant about the lack of playing time.
The fact that Miami is 4-9 in the last 13 games and 9-14 overall may or may not have caused Whiteside some indigestion, but it sure gave him a loss of appetite to conduct himself like a pro in the throes of adversity.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Once the kings of the NBA - two titles and four straight Finals appearances from 2011-2014 - the only heat Miami billows these days is the friction between the team and its prized center.
So why is Spoelstra benching a 7-foot, 265-pound asset who is a premier shot-blocker?
Because Whiteside tends to fade like cheap jeans. In the Magic game for instance, he chalked 12 points, six rebounds, one steal, and a block in the first half. But he wilted with a -9 rating in the third quarter, forcing the coaching staff to ice him.
Playing in the fourth quarter, especially when the game sits in the balance, is an honor for any hooper. There is a fierce sense of pride attached to it, too, which is why I can see Hassan's frustrations as he languishes on the sidelines, his eyes dancing, his heart racing with eagerness to take part in the unfolding drama.
However, at age 29, with seven NBA summers of experience to show for it, Whiteside should know by now that playing time is something he can't control. Pouting does not only make himself appear as a non-conformist, it creates a toxic locker room environment for his team.
As their relationship descends into the abyss of grief and eternal frustration, it only makes sense for the Heat to cut ties with their malcontent employee.
But they can't.
Whiteside is making $25.4 million this season and has a player option worth $27 million for next season. No sane GM will take on that contract. Not for a player with a rebellious streak and definitely not for a blundering big whose 3-point shooting is practically non-existent, 4-for-14 (28.6 percent) in 293 games.
When Whiteside inked that four-year $98 million deal with Miami last July 2016, it was seen as a union filled with hope, hype, and happiness.
Right now, it's just a bad contract.
It's also a bad marriage.
With zero chance of reconciliation, let alone a rekindling of affections.