A box of Dora The Explorer fruit snacks sat next to Michael Beasley inside the Heat’s pregame locker room on Saturday as he glanced up with a face like that of a guilty child.
A reporter had just asked him how many packets of fruit snacks he ate before a game.
“One,” Beasley said.
With one packet in Beasley’s hand and three empty packets by his side, there was, understandably, a brief moment of confusion.
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“No, not boxes,” said the reporter. “Packets.”
Fueled by his fruit snacks and a burning desire to prove his maturity and commitment to the Heat, Beasley has been doggedly pushing himself in practice to learn a role he has never played in his career.
He is making progress, and on Saturday in the Heat’s 111-110 loss to the Celtics, Beasley made just his second appearance of the season. He scored 10 points in eight minutes in the second quarter and — in an ironic twist considering Beasley’s previous reputation — he appeared to be the only member of the Heat remotely interested in playing defense on a night the team shot 57 percent from the field and lost.
Yes, up was down in more ways than one on Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
At one point in the second quarter, Beasley pumped his fist in excitement after absorbing a charge by Celtics forward Gerald Wallace under the basket. The defensive highlight came amid a run of four consecutive field goals by Beasley on the other end of the court.
For the season, Beasley is 7 of 11 from the field for 16 points in 12 minutes, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has been hesitant to include the mercurial forward in the team’s regular rotation through the first 12 days of the regular season.
Beasley didn’t play in the second half, and Spoelstra suggested afterwards that Beasley’s brand of instant offense wasn’t needed.
Of course, his defense might have made a difference.
“In the second half I just felt like we didn’t have to force a 10-man rotation,” Spoelstra said. “He played well, he gave us minutes but that’s not the reason [for the loss].”
In addition to his effort in practice and in games, Beasley also has been doing everything he can off the court to prove himself. He cut his hair before the regular season because, in his words, he had “the most obnoxious hair in the league.”
But fruit snack restrictions, that seems a little extreme.
Back in the pregame locker room, Beasley glanced at the box and the empty packets and then at the Heat’s equipment manager, who was sitting to his right.
“Just one packet, man,” Beasley said holding up the packet
He then extended his arms for emphasis.
“Why just one?” asked the reporter.
“Just because,” Beasley said. “That’s all you need to know.”
It’s widely understood inside and outside of the Heat’s locker room that Beasley has been on probation with the team ever since the Heat extended him a lifeline this offseason. The remaining year of his contract was bought out by the Phoenix Suns over the summer after an incident involving marijuana. Recognizing the value in signing Beasley for the veteran’s minimum, the Heat brought him back, but apparently with very strict guidelines.
“I’m on a different planet right now than these other guys,” Beasley said.
And also maybe inside an alternate universe — one where Beasley outplays Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Shane Battier defensively and the Heat loses to the starless Celtics by way of a free-throw violation that led to a buzzer-beating three-pointer.