Miami Heat

Miami Heat forward Michael Beasley: ‘I’m playing with desperation’

Michael Beasley shoots in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015.
Michael Beasley shoots in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015. El Nuevo Herald

Fear can be a great motivator.

So if there is ever any temptation for Michael Beasley to do something he will regret, this is the deterrent that resonates:

“My biggest fear is my daughter starting to read three-, four-syllable words,” the Heat forward said.

“It’s nothing for her to read in a paper: Michael Beasley in trouble. I’m trying to change the way I live for them because they deserve a better example than what I’ve been giving them. That’s where everything is coming from.”

As a former No. 2 overall draft pick, Beasley never figured he would be in this position, clinging to an NBA career, playing on minimum money deals.

But he has carved out a meaningful bench role on this Heat team, and he views this third opportunity with Miami as his final NBA chance. “Definitely,” he said. “I’m really playing with desperation. When this goes, I go.”

Not only is he scoring as usual (9.2 points), rebounding (4.0 in 23 minutes per game) and helping facilitate Miami’s offense off the bench, but he’s also usually defending with verve. Miami has outscored teams by 26 points when Beasley is on the floor.

After Monday’s practice at Marquette University, Erik Spoelstra acknowledged his trust in Beasley has continued to grow. That confidence motivated the Heat to not only sign Beasley for the remainder of the season, but also include a team option for next season.

“He’s grown a lot; I feel very comfortable with Mike,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve been running [some] of our offense through him, a la Chris Bosh.”

Beasley, 26, hoped last season’s Heat reunion would rejuvenate his career. He stayed out of trouble, finished 50th in the NBA in points per 48 minutes and appeared in 55 games.

But he received no guaranteed NBA offers last summer amid concerns about his maturity, his checkered past and his defensive acumen.

That didn’t surprise him because“I know the questions that were being asked. Only I could prove those questions right or wrong. I was a little disappointed, disheartened, but surprised? Not really. I had nobody to blame but myself.”

Questions about maturity have swirled around Beasley since his rookie season. He has never been suspended by the NBA, but has found himself in a few regrettable situations, including a September 2013 arrest on suspicion of marijuana after a traffic stop. The Suns released him a month later.

Without any guaranteed NBA offers last summer, Beasley attended training camp with the Grizzlies on a non-guaranteed deal, but was released Oct. 9 and signed with the Shanghai Sharks, where he averaged 28.6 points and 10.4 rebounds for a team owned by former NBA star Yao Ming.

He would awake at 5:30 in the morning in China to watch NBA games on television. The thought would often creep into his mind: I could be helping one of these NBA teams. “I stopped that because I thought I was hating,” he said.

The experience in China helped him mature.

“I took the opportunity to really find myself on and off the court,” he said. “You are never really by yourself until dishes are not being washed, food is not being cooked. Your stomach is growling and there’s nobody there to feed you.”

When his season in China ended, Beasley returned to Miami, where he has maintained a residence, and spent three weeks working out at AmericanAirlines Arena and UM.

The Heat began considering bringing him back after Bosh was lost for the season with blood clots on his lungs.

“It was fate,” Beasley said. “And I hate that my triumph has to come from misfortune.”

Heat forward Henry Walker, Beasley’s former teammate at Kansas State, said Beasley “pays more attention now. A lot less joking.”

Goran Dragic, who played with Beasley one season in Phoenix, said: “He’s more mature. You need to be on top of him so he doesn’t relax.”

Such a moment happened Sunday in Oklahoma City, when Spoelstra yanked Beasley after just two first-quarter minutes and angrily scolded him because “I didn’t get back on defense once,” Beasley said. He was reinserted 35 seconds later.

“Spo’s only thing about me is just playing hard. He wants a motor,” Beasley said. “I've got to develop that for us to be great.”

Overall, though, his defense has improved dramatically. “[In the past], I wasn’t committing 100 percent like I was on the offensive side.”

Beasley shows self-awareness in discussing his evolution. “I’m still that fun-loving guy that likes to joke, but now I understand what’s needed of me, the level of focus I need to bring.”

One key, he said, has been reducing sugar in his diet.

“I would lie if I told you I didn’t eat candy, but I definitely don’t eat as much,” he said. “The day I stopped eating loads of sugar, I started feeling more energetic.”

The greater level of accountability is also evident.

“I can say [the journey] hasn’t been hard, but I would be lying,” he said. “I used to always think, ‘I’m cool. [Critics] just need something to talk about.’

“I’m not going to get in trouble no more. You have to take ownership. My maturation process is not done at all.”

He admits “my public persona is not perfect. Definitely working every day toward fixing it. Right now, I’m happy.

“I’m blessed with an opportunity to play basketball again with people I know, people I loved, people I grew up with. And I’m actually playing for something that means something to the city.”

WADE AWARD

Dwyane Wade was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the 18th time in his career. He averaged 24.5 points and shot 53.2 percent in four games.

TUESDAY: HEAT AT BUCKS

When, where: 8 p.m., Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

TV, radio: Sun Sports; WAXY 104.3 FM, 790 AM, WAQI 710 AM (Spanish).

Series: Heat leads 60-37.

Noteworthy: The Bucks won the previous three meetings this season, by seven points in both games in Miami and by 24 on Dec. 5 in Milwaukee. With a win, the Heat can close to within one-half game of the Bucks for sixth place in the conference.

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