Erik Spoelstra took the high road Friday night when he was asked to respond to criticism from Knicks forward Michael Beasley, who told the New York Post recently the Heat’s coach didn’t allow him to get more out of his three stints in Miami because Spoelstra didn’t believe in him enough.
“Jeez, Beas, you threw me under the bus man,” Spoelstra said with a grin on his face. “I actually do [like Beasley]. We all root for Michael. He’s one of the guys you like having around because he has a great personality. When he comes into the gym, every single day it’s with a smile on his face. He’s not afraid of working. He loves the game. I like being around guys like that.
“We had some very good moments while he was here. I believe three out of the four years we went to the playoffs. I said it yesterday, his second year with us, I think he was really ready to build off that year. It was a very productive year. He was a big part of that team that went to the playoffs. Then, obviously, the next year we assembled the Big Three team. But if we hadn’t, I think he was ready to take another big step.”
Beasley, whom the Heat drafted second overall in 2008 before trading him to Minnesota in 2010 to help create cap space to sign the Big Three, told The Post he’s long sensed his reputation as an enigma around the league stemmed from coaches such as Spoelstra, whom he says singled him out for his defensive woes.
Friday, though, Beasley took a step back from those comments, adding there was never any bad blood between him and Spoelstra and only that he was frustrated on the nights he didn’t get to play.
“I just feel like when I was here it was more of what I couldn’t do or more of what I wasn’t good at as opposed to what I was,” Beasley said. “"I just felt like I could have done a whole lot more for them.”
Beasley, who turns 29 next Tuesday and has now played for six different NBA teams in his career, came into Friday’s game having put together a nice string of performances for New York over the past month. After averaging 15.4 points in December, he started the new year with 18- and 20-point games, raising his scoring average to 11.7 points on 52 percent shooting.
But he also entered Friday’s game last on the Knicks with a defensive rating of 109.1.
Spoelstra, though, didn’t throw Beasley under the bus before Friday’s game for that when asked to give his assessment of Beasley’s play of late. Spoelstra even went as far as to say whatever criticism he had of Beasley early in his career may have been the result of him being a young coach.
“I probably was crazy my first couple years of coaching – I’m still crazy, I don’t know,” Spoelstra said. “He’s always been able to put the ball in the basket. It’s been about the right timing, the right fit [with us]. I really like the way they’re using him right now. He had some moments like that last year in Milwaukee. I thought Jason Kidd did a really good job using him as well.
“Like I said, even with us, if you look back to that second year when we took a jump from 43 wins his rookie year to 47 wins, he was a big part of that team, going to the playoffs. He made a big jump. So, we still root for him and know what he’s capable of. He can put that ball in the basket.”
Asked if he enjoyed his four seasons in Miami, Beasley said Friday: “Every one of them. I mean it was hard not to with the players I was with.”