As Michael Beasley conducted a postgame interview inside Air Canada Centre on Tuesday, he was interrupted by a booming voice a few feet away.
“You were awesome tonight!” LeBron James shouted.
Beasley played just four minutes against Toronto, making his first appearance of the season on a night Chris Bosh was back in Miami with his newborn daughter. He might not even get off the bench Thursday when the Los Angeles Clippers visit.
But you will hear no hint of disappointment from Beasley, even though the lack of playing time is unlike anything he has experienced.
“I’m not a patient guy,” he admitted. “But I know I can be patient. It’s not like I’m coming in here and trying to beat out rookies. We’re talking about Hall of Fame guys.”
Not playing much, he said, “is not difficult. I’m having fun with a great group of guys. Learning more than I’ve ever learned. It’s amazing. I get to learn a lot from guys that are where I want to be. So it’s actually a good situation for me.”
For now, coach Erik Spoelstra seems more comfortable playing Rashard Lewis when he uses a 10th man.
It’s an unusual predicament for Beasley, who has appeared in at least 73 games in all four of his NBA seasons when he wasn’t sidelined by a significant injury. (He missed 11 games with a sprained foot for Minnesota in 2011-12.)
Beasley averaged 29.8 minutes per game in his second season with the Heat (2009-10) and 26.4 minutes in his previous five seasons.
So is he is frustrated at all by his role?
“Not one bit,” he said.
He finally got his chance midway through the second quarter Tuesday and quickly drained two three-pointers before missing his only other two shots.
“I was scared to shoot that first shot,” he said. “When it went in, it felt like old times. But I was nervous. I had the mind-set just to stay ready. I’m just trying to do my part and hope it ends well.”
Spoelstra said he has spoken to Beasley about being patient and said Beasley’s practice performance has been “good. He’s making positive steps. He just has to continue to embrace the work. He was a 19-year-old when we received him. This is his sixth season. So everybody matures naturally just from life and experience.”
Beasley, 24, said even if he’s not playing, simply being in this structured environment ultimately will help his career.
“I will be a better player because of it,” he said. “Mentally, I’m in a better place. It’s a privilege to be here.”
Beasley, whose one-year contract doesn’t become fully guaranteed until Jan. 10, said he has improved “everywhere.” Teammates say his defense is better, and he’s moving the ball more decisively.
“He’s definitely more mature” than his first stint here, Udonis Haslem said. “And he’s not worrying about anything but getting better. He’s coachable. He listens.”
The Heat on Thursday will be facing what appears to be the Clippers’ most formidable team in many years. Besides hiring coach Doc Rivers, they also added J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley and Darren Collison to their nucleus of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
“They’re a great team,” James said. “It’s like they surrounded [Paul] like his New Orleans days. They’ve got a great supporting cast.”
James is close with Paul, who attended James’ wedding in September.
Sometime soon, Dwyane Wade will tie Dennis Johnson’s record for most blocks by a player 6-4 or shorter. Wade, who is five short of Johnson’s mark of 675, has averaged 1.0 blocks in his career, a shade ahead of deceased former Celtic Reggie Lewis, who ranks second all time among guards at 0.9.
“It’s cool I have my own category,” Wade said. “I take more pride in my blocks more than anything. I’m supposed to be able to dunk in transition. But having a certain amount of blocks is not what I’m supposed to do at my position.”
Throughout his career, Wade — who is listed at 6-4 but is actually 6-3, according to Spoelstra — has swatted away shots of taller players, including seven-footers Brook Lopez and Dirk Nowitzki and 6-11 Dwight Howard. His block of 7-1 center Tyson Chandler’s dunk attempt during an NBA Finals game was particularly memorable.
“Defensively, we started playing position-less our first year because of Dwyane’s ability to be the back line of your defense in certain situations and play that as effectively as a 6-10, 7-foot center,” Spoelstra said.
“It’s remarkable, his ability to make those plays to cover ground.”
The key to Wade’s shot-blocking prowess?
“He’s got great awareness and great hand-eye coordination,” Shane Batter said. “Some guys turn it into steals. He does blocks and steals.”