Dwyane Wade was sporting a walking boot on the sideline as he watched his teammates prepare for Friday's game against the Memphis Grizzles.
With Wade out at least the next two games and probably more with a strained right calf, the Miami Heat will need Michael Beasley to step up and assume the No. 1 scoring role.
The second-year forward has at times shown flashes of brilliance, but his inconsistency on both ends of the court have his coach's and teammates scratching their heads on nights Beasley struggles. When he gets hot, the 21-year old can be great, but when he goes cold it's often hard to watch.
Much to the frustration of head coach Eric Spoelstra, Beasley has yet to harness his undeniable talent for scoring from practically anywhere on the court. His midrange jumper is a thing of beauty when its dropping and there are few players who take the ball to the rim with such ease. But the concentration and decision-making just aren't there on a nightly basis.
Beasley has scored 20 or more points on seventeen occasions this season, but has twelve games with 10 or fewer points. He has 23 games with over .500 shooting and 16 games under .400 shooting. In ten games this year he's gone without a turnover, in another nine he's had 3 or more.
Get the idea?
Its something the Heat staff has been trying to work on with the young man, and there has been progress. Just not enough yet. With Wade out, Beasley needs to get it together in a hurry though.
The Heat have won their last four games leading up to Friday's contest with the Grizzlies, but this will be the first time this season the team prepares to go a significant stretch without their franchise player. Wade has dressed for all of Miami's 55 games so far.
No. 3 is waiting until the team returns to Miami to have an MRI done on his ailing calf, but from what's been whispered it doesn't look great. Hopefully the diagnosis remains a strain, but we could be hearing sprain come Monday and that would mean a month, maybe more. Lets call it two weeks for now —just my guess.
Under that scenario Wade would miss at least the Heat's next seven games. Miami is currently tied with the Chicago Bulls for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, a 1/2 game ahead of the Charlotte Bobcats. With the Milwaukee Bucks just two games behind the Bobcat's, the Heat would probably find themselves on the outside looking in if the next stretch of games goes badly.
A lot of that depends on which Beasley shows up. Against the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday, he had 23 points and 11 rebounds for his tenth double-double of the season. Wade left that contest after just over eight minutes and didn't return. The Heat narrowly escaped with an 87-84 victory, much to the solid contribution of Beasley.
Not only was he impressive on offense (.588 shooting), Beasley added two blocks amid a solid overall defensive night. The second of his blocks came with 27 seconds to play with the Heat up 83-82. It was the pivotal moment of the game and sent Miami home with the win after trailing by 6 with under five minutes to play.
That's the Michael Beasley the Heat need right now more than ever. The inconsistencies that have plagued him thus far need to disappear or talk of Miami's suspect supporting cast will only grow louder with each day.
The question is whether or not Beasley is ready to handle the pressure again. The next few days will go a long way toward answering that.