It’s one of the more iconic images of the past century, and it’s tattooed prominently on Michael Beasley’s body. Looking up from the right side of his midsection is the smiling face of Bob Marley.
On Monday, one day before Beasley’s 19-point game against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Heat’s forward stood shirtless in front of reporters and answered questions about his refocused attitude, his relationships with teammates and the second chance he has been given with the Heat. All the while, Marley looked up at reporters, too. Marley’s dreadlocks are spread across a significant flank of Beasley’s abdomen.
“Bob Marley, his meaning upon life,” Beasley said, when asked about the significance of the tattoo. “He was so about love and so against hatred.
“Bob Marley was definitely an influential part of my life even though he was gone way before me. I grew up on Bob Marley through my family and through his music and just the ‘One Love’ movement. If we all loved each other, it would be a better place.”
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Like Marley, Beasley is known for his kind-heartedness. Also like Marley, Beasley has a rather public association with marijuana. It’s that last reputation that Beasley says he is working to fix in this season-long redemption song of his career. Beasley, who is playing under a nonguaranteed contract with the Heat, is starting to show signs that — finally — he might be figuring things out.
“I am more focused,” Beasley said. “It means a little more. Nothing to do with my contract, or nothing to do with me at all. It’s history, and like I said before, I don’t want that to be the reason I don’t make it.”
Without the safety net of a guaranteed money in his bank account, Beasley is saying and doing all the right things, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra isn’t sold. Not yet.
Spoelstra’s position on Beasley has been consistent. The former No. 2 overall pick has to continue to earn his right to be on the court.
But Beasley has started to prove himself to Spoelstra, little by little.
Playing in his second consecutive game for the first time this season, Beasley was 8 of 12 from the field and 2 of 3 from three-point range. Defensively, there wasn’t much of an opportunity to make an impression, but the Heat outscored the Bucks 18-10 during Beasley’s first-half minutes. During that time, the Bucks shot just 22 percent, or 2 of 9 from the field.
“He just has to continue to embrace the routine,” Spoelstra said. “He’s been terrific with his work ethic, his consistency. He just needs to continue to move forward and take advantage of the opportunities when he does get that opportunity to play.”
Of course, it’s obvious at this point that Spoelstra has little patience for even the slightest hint of Beasley being Beasley.
Beasley was playing brilliantly in the second quarter, scoring seven points in six minutes on 3-of-4 shooting, but Spoelstra was not amused when Beasley dramatically jogged the length of the court during a stoppage and made it obvious to the thousands in attendance that he had just taken a blow to the groin area. Spoelstra stared at Beasley with annoyance, looked down his bench and motioned for Roger Mason Jr. to check into the game.
Beasley’s 20 minutes against Milwaukee were a season high, but don’t confuse that for a sign that he is about to become a permanent fixture in the Heat’s rotation. Rashard Lewis remains ahead of Beasley on the depth chart, and was the Heat’s first player off the bench on Tuesday. Beasley only played against the Bucks because Udonis Haslem (back spasms) and Ray Allen (illness) were unavailable.
But keeping Beasley out of the action might be a losing battle for Spoelstra. Instant offense like the kind Beasley produces is hard to come by in the NBA and Beasley is averaging 11.7 points per game in 10.7 minutes. And although Spoelstra is emphasizing ideas like “routine,” Dwyane Wade and LeBron James don’t want Beasley really changing all that much.
James yelled at Beasley to shoot during the game against the Boston Celtics rather than pass and Wade made a point to get Beasley involved offensively against the Bucks as soon as he checked into the game.
“I know how dynamic he is as a scorer and what he can bring to this team,” Wade said. “I wanted to make sure that we got him some touches and got him comfortable a little bit. We are going to need the guy.”
Last Saturday against the Celtics, James admonished Beasley for passing up two open looks at the rim.
“It was two times Mario [Chalmers] had drove baseline and I had a wide-open shot and I passed it to him and [James] yelled at me,” Beasley said. “He said, ‘Do what you do. You’re not here to pass the ball.’ So, once he told me that, I just kind of focused my attention on the rim.”