Michael Beasley has a name for himself that might be best summed up his first two stints with the Miami Heat. Looking back, Beasley calls his old self the “my-bad guy.”
My bad, as in always missing an assignment on defense.
My bad, as in simply not knowing where to be.
My bad, as in not even really caring about defense at all.
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“At first I would just keep to myself and mess the whole play up, and I was the ‘my-bad guy,’ ” Beasley said on Tuesday, a practice day for the Heat. “It was ‘my bad, my bad’ after every play.”
This is the reputation Beasley is trying to distance himself from during his third turn with the Heat, and so far he has done a pretty good job of it. Beasley has received praise from coach Erik Spoelstra, co-captains Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem and others since joining the team a few weeks ago. On Monday, Beasley helped primary defender Luol Deng limit LeBron James to 26 points.
Beasley’s second 10-day contract was scheduled to end Tuesday, and the Heat now is expected to sign him for the remainder of the season.
“Michael has been very good, and with all the changes and moving parts, we are very fortunate to add a player who is familiar to us and our system,” Spoelstra said. “He has improved a great deal and he has helped us, so he has made the most of the opportunity, and we’ll go from there.”
Understand, of course, that the Heat has been here before with Beasley. He has done all the right things before, played defense well and then, well, gone right back into the mode of my-bad guy once he had a guaranteed paycheck. By the end of last season, he was interacting with the locker-room personnel more than his teammates.
The difference now is that the Heat needs Beasley, and Beasley needs the Heat. He is playing an actual role for the team other than locker-room goofball. Beasley contributes to wins. It’s a peculiar relationship, considering the history between the player and the team. Since selecting Beasley second overall in the 2008 draft, the Heat has seen Beasley go from bust to an important trade piece to a steal at the veteran’s minimum to a complete washout to now … what exactly?
Calling Beasley a valued veteran defender during a playoff push seems a bit surreal, but that might be the closest approximation to his role. He takes charges. He comes off the bench as a defensive specialist. He’s vocal. Heck, he guarded James on Monday night during the unexpected blowout of the Cleveland Cavaliers and actually denied the hulking four-time MVP the basket a few times.
How is Beasley different this time?
“The way he’s talking on [defense], he actually knows what he’s talking about,” Mario Chalmers said.
There’s a funny thing about that, though. Beasley says that when he’s talking on defense, more often than not he’s actually talking to himself.
“Just me talking gets me in the right space,” Beasley said. “Talking lets me know if I’m late or not. I’m really talking to myself more so than I’m talking to anybody else.”
Chalmers got mad when Beasley first started talking to himself on the court. Now the Heat’s shooting guard just goes with it.
Hey, whatever works, right?
“Defense is, man, a willing activity,” Beasley said. “Some people like it; some people don’t. We all have the ability to play it. We’re all athletic. We’re tall. We’re all strong. So, defense, and I’ve taught myself this, is a state of mind.
“I’m not going to make it easy on you, and that’s where playing good defense comes from.”
Heat point guard Goran Dragic has an interesting perspective on Beasley because Dragic played with Beasley in Phoenix. In other words, Dragic saw Beasley at his absolute worst. The Suns released Beasley from his contract after an arrest on suspicion of marijuana possession.
“I think it’s much easier here because everybody knows what we need to do,” Dragic said. “We have a system in defense. Phoenix is known as an offensive team, and not so much defensively, but he’s just listening and he’s saying he wants to do everything it takes to be a team player.”
Beasley loves to score, but he doesn’t want people to call him “Mr. Buckets” anymore.
He wants to finally develop into a two-way player, and the Heat hopes that’s the case during these next crucial weeks that will determine whether or not the Heat makes the playoffs. If the Heat reaches the postseason, it is not hard to envision the team actually bringing Beasley back next season.
“I am very comfortable with Michael,” Spoelstra said. “I have spent a lot of time with Michael over the years.”
TRAIL BLAZERS AT HEAT
When, where: 7:30 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena.
TV, radio: Sun Sports; 104.3 FM, 790 AM, WAQI (710 AM, Spanish).
Series: Trail Blazers lead 34-18.
Of note: Chris Bosh (blood clot) and Josh McRoberts (right meniscus surgery) are out. Guard Wesley Matthews (left Achilles tendon) is out for the Trail Blazers. This is the third game of a five-game road trip for the Trail Blazers, who arrived in Miami on Monday night after a road loss to the Washington Wizards.