Back in July, Pat Riley said he wanted to “cannibalize” the free agent market this offseason. He did.
In addition to convincing Chris Andersen to sign for the veteran’s minimum, Riley lassoed reclamation projects Greg Oden and Michael Beasley into minimum contracts. Oden and Beasley enter training camp as two of the three highest drafted players on the team’s roster, the Heat is paying next to nothing for them and if either one pans out, such value would potentially represent the managerial move of the year in the NBA.
Beasley is back with the Heat because he couldn’t stop smoking marijuana. Oden is attempting a comeback after not playing in a game since 2009 because of knee injuries.
When training camp begins in the Bahamas on Tuesday, two of the biggest stories will be the attempts of Oden and Beasley to salvage their careers. With an onerous luxury tax kicking into high gear this season, their success or failure could represent a bridge to the next phase of LeBron James’ career in Miami, or part of the faulty architecture that led to that bridge crashing into Biscayne Bay.
The Heat is taking chances on Beasley and Oden in the hopes that they turn out more like Andersen and less like Eddy Curry.
“After three years of being out, I’m just going to go out and do what I can,” Oden said during a news conference this offseason. “If somehow [my body] says no, then it says no. But for me, I’m not even worried about that — just go play and not even think about that.”
As for Beasley, who is participating in training camp with a nonguaranteed deal, this might be his last chance before he’s completely out of the league. Whether or not he can be scared straight is anyone’s guess, but he’ll have a positive support structure of old friends to help. Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers have already reached out.
On Thursday night, Beasley made a surprise appearance at Wade’s fashion show/charity event in the Design District. Wade posed for pictures with Beasley, and the Heat’s former No. 2 overall draft pick palled around with Chalmers.
“Well well well the homie is back,” Chalmers wrote on Twitter when Beasley signed. “I want every Heat fan to welcome back my brotha [Beasley] Mr. Buckets back to Miami. We focused.”
According to sources within the Heat’s organization, Beasley led to Chalmers’ lack of focus early in their careers, and it wasn’t until Beasley was traded to Minnesota that Chalmers began steadily improving his game. While Chalmers matured in Miami while surrounded by new influences such as James, Beasley bounced from Minnesota to Phoenix with marijuana-related offenses at both stops.
He was let go this summer by the Suns after his most recent ordeal and, according to the Scottsdale, Ariz., City Court calendar, he’s scheduled to appear for a civil hearing at 8 a.m. Monday. Reports out of Phoenix have cited sources within the Suns organization calling Beasley “toxic.”
But, of course, it’s not like the Heat isn’t aware of what it’s getting into with Beasley, and Riley’s recent track record with reclamation projects speaks for itself. Andersen was a boon for the Heat the minute he stepped into the locker room ready to prove he still belonged in the league. To be clear, though, Andersen did not need rehabilitating.
“Let’s face it, we stole ‘Bird,’ ” James said during the 2013 playoffs.
One of the most underplayed stories of the NBA since the Heat won the free agent bonanza in 2010 is how the team’s front office successfully has added quality depth for pennies on the dollar. Having the best player in the league overshadows a lot, especially the importance of role players in the postseason. But Riley, CEO Nick Arison and general manager Andy Elisburg have bolstered the Heat’s roster on the cheap ever since the team fizzled in the 2011 NBA Finals.
In back-to-back offseasons, Shane Battier and Ray Allen each agreed to take less money than what was being offered by other teams to join James, Wade and Chris Bosh. Battier was the unsung hero of the Heat’s 2012 championship and Allen’s contribution to Game 6 of the 2013 Finals represented arguably the biggest shot in the history of the franchise.
This offseason, the Heat could have used its mini midlevel exception on either Oden or Andersen, but did not and convinced them to sign for far less. Both deals were considered two more major free agent coups for the Heat, and if Beasley works out, using the amnesty clause on Mike Miller and clearing his salary off the books will be just another smart move in a growing list of many.
The Heat has named Juwan Howard an assistant coach and promoted Andy Elisburg to general manager. He was an assistant general manager to Pat Riley last season and is a significant portion of the Heat’s brain trust. Other moves within the organization heading into the season: Adam Simon has been named assistant general manager/general manager Sioux Falls Sky Force; Dan Craig has been named assistant coach of player development; Chad Kammerer is now the Heat’s director of NBA scouting/advance scout; moving from coaching to the front office, Keith Askins is now the director of college and pro scouting; Rich Fernando is now an executive assistant to coaches; Eric Glass, a video intern, is now in the video room full time; Tim Hardaway is now a scout in addition to being a community and corporate liaison.