Michael Beasley Starts Back at the Bottom, with No Guarantees

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Michael Beasley Starts Back at the Bottom, with No Guarantees

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — His career hasn't gone according to expectations, and apparently Michael Beasley still has plenty of other surprises in store. Most wouldn't have anticipated, for instance, that he, one of the NBA's true free spirits, would have never spent any time in one of the league's notorious party spots. 

"I've never been to the Bahamas before," he said Tuesday. "So I guess it's nice, real nice."

Five years ago, when Beasley was ripping nets for Kansas State, "nice" was among the countless complimentary adjectives associated with his offensive game. Ever since, his fortunes have taken a nasty turn. Discarded by the Miami Heat to secure more cap space, right before their rise to the top of the East. Allowed to leave by the desperate Minnesota Timberwolves. Dumped by the dreadful Phoenix Suns.

By now, the former No. 2 overall pick was supposed to be making appearances in All-Star Games.

Instead, he keeps appearing on the transactions page and police blotter.

So this week, the 24-year-old is here, in Paradise Island, taking part in the Heat's training camp, with another opportunity to avoid a permanent vacation from the NBA. After making, if not always earning, roughly $25 million in his first five seasons, he begged the Heat to let him compete to earn the relative pittance of $1 million.

Miami made room on its 20-man roster for its misfit, wayward son, three years after Erik Spoelstra benched him near the end of a first-round playoff elimination in Boston, due to a lack of concentration.

The question now is whether Beasley can compel Spoelstra, Pat Riley and the rest of the Heat brass to make room on the 15-man roster.

After the pilot of "Bringing Up Beasley" fell so flat, does the Heat organization have the patience to produce a second episode?

Marc Serota/Getty Images

"I'm happy he's back, and I think he's the spark plug that this team needed from a talent standpoint." Dwyane Wade said. "I always say, Michael's greatness is on Michael. How great he wants to be will be predicated on him. So we will all see."

Yes, we will see.

We will see whether Beasley is, as he said Tuesday, "smarter, a lot wiser than I was. I've slowed down. Not as easygoing. More cautious of decisions." We will see whether he has absorbed as much from "watching guys like LeBron (James) and Carmelo (Anthony) and D-Wade" to implement that understanding in his own game, and reverse the significant slippage in offensive efficiency over his five seasons.

We will see whether he will work as hard as he promises, "to show these guys I'm in, show them I'm committed, and let everything fall into place," even if few minutes fall to him at first. 

"I can't control minutes," Beasley said. "I ain't got no minutes in my pocket, and I ain't got no crazy cellphone plan. I'm OK just being here. I'm grateful for the opportunity. I'm grateful somebody still believes in me." 

We will see whether he can consistently apply himself on defense, while avoiding any more turns as a defendant.

We will see whether he can restrain himself on offense, while taking the necessary offense at the current perception of him.

Yes, he should be offended, and embarrassed, that so many consider him a charity case, even if that's earned.

"Everybody embraced me," Beasley said of his Heat teammates, some old and some new, following his first practice of his second tenure. "D-Wade stayed in my ear the whole time."

Embracing is fine, healthy. 

But they shouldn't be required to babysit him. Already, some have taken some of the burden, simply because that's who they are. It was Udonis Haslem, after all, who lost his starting job to Beasley the last time around, even though Haslem embodied the Heat culture to which Beasley couldn't conform. And yet Haslem has always felt a responsibility to mentor Beasley, due to his undying allegiance to his high school coach Frank Martin, who later coached Beasley at Kansas State.

"I spoke to him, I sat him down, and I've always been able to be real, upfront and honest with Mike," Haslem said. "He probably didn't agree with everything I said, but he knows I have his best interests at heart. I've just got to do a better job than I did the last time around. I've learned some things about Beas, I think we understand each other. And I think he's a good kid, he really wants to do right. Sometimes it's not really the person. Sometimes it's who they are around, and who they surround themselves with. Sometimes that's the hardest thing for us to do is kind of clean out our closet a little bit."

Haslem went so far as to include Mario Chalmers, Beasley's close friend, in the conversation.

"I want them to understand that this is not five years ago," Haslem said.

Five years ago, the Heat were rebuilding. Now they're returning 12 players from a title team.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

"Michael came here out of college and it was a different organization at the time, a different team," Wade said. "He comes back, and we are in a different place. It's going to take Michael a little while to get comfortable with the guys, and with his role, and what we need."

Five years ago, Beasley and Chalmers were rookies, finding their way, and often finding themselves in trouble with the organization. Now Chalmers is an established NBA point guard, a two-time NBA champion, and someone who has earned sufficient respect to be deemed a "vet."

Now, Chalmers is trying to help his "brother."

"I try to tell him about different aspects of the team," Chalmers said. "When we first came in, nobody cared about the Heat. Now all anybody cares about is the Heat. We're under a microscope. Whatever you do, just be careful."

In the Bahamas, and beyond.

Ethan Skolnick covers the Miami Heat for Bleacher Report.

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