Posted Jan 6, 2014 4:21 PM
MIAMI (AP) -- Among players averaging less than 20 minutes per game, no one in the NBA is scoring more than Michael Beasley.
Still, there's a youthful exuberance about the Miami forward.
He announces his presence in the locker room before most Heat games with various hijinks. He might knock a drink bottle from Chris Bosh's hands, or incorrectly recite rap lyrics to LeBron James, or playfully punch Dwyane Wade in the shoulder for no discernible reason, or announce to anyone within earshot that he's "always in the zone."
And no one's complaining, proof of the respect Beasley has earned since September.
His second term with the Heat hits a significant milestone at 5 p.m. Tuesday. If he remains on the roster then what was a non-guaranteed contract gets picked up for the rest of the season on Friday. For someone who might have been running out of chances, that's no minor feat.
"It's not easy being in his position," Bosh said. "It's like having to learn how to play basketball all over again."
Beasley is averaging 11.1 points, the most of any player this season who logs less than 20 minutes per game. He's on pace to obliterate his previous career-bests in field-goal percentage (.531 so far this year) and 3-point percentage (.500). A bit volatile at times in his first five NBA seasons, he hasn't been hit with a single technical so far, either.
But his reinvention as a player isn't complete.
"Not yet," Bosh said. "I told him he'll figure it all out once the season's over. He'll have all summer to think about it. But he's going to get it."
In the interim, the Heat are trying to accelerate that process.
He's usually one of the first players to arrive at work, usually one of the last to leave. His locker is next to longtime mentor Udonis Haslem, which isn't accidental, since Haslem was the player most in his ear during Beasley's first stint in Miami after being taken with the No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft. Now it's like Haslem has to fight for time in that ear, since it's not uncommon to see Bosh, James, Wade, Mario Chalmers and others advising Beasley.
"As soon as he became available, we all wanted to bring him back," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Then it was about getting him to be consistent with the routine. We built up a very structured routine for him every single day of learning what we do and fasttracking what this group has been doing for the last three-plus years and he's embraced it wholeheartedly."
He scored 17 points in 20 minutes on Sunday, helping Miami top Toronto 102-97. Afterward, Beasley wanted to talk almost exclusively about his defense.
The scoring, that's probably what got him a second Miami chance.
His newfound commitment to being a complete player is probably what's keeping him around.
"It's refreshing, I guess," Beasley said. "Like I said before, I'm not really worried about the offensive side right now. But at the same time, I have to stay aggressive."
That's what James told him from the very beginning. For someone with Beasley's copious offensive gifts, coming to Miami was hardly a bad idea, not when he gets to share time on the court with James, Wade and Bosh - all of whom attract plenty of defensive attention.
And that tends to mean Beasley finds himself open, maybe more often than ever.
"Early on you could tell that he was very passive and we want to share the ball, but at the end of the day the ball's going to end up in his hands a lot ... and he's going to have the footspeed against a lot of 4's that are guarding him," James said. "He's one of the best offensive players that we have and he's taken full advantage of it."
As the season gets deeper and the stakes get higher, Bosh said he already knows Beasley will be playing a critical role for the Heat. Beasley hasn't appeared in the playoffs since 2010, the spring before Miami traded him to Minnesota. He's never even played in a second-round game, and now is expected to help a team try and win another title.
He's welcoming the chance.
"Still working hard," Beasley said. "I'm not going to work any less come Tuesday."
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