Beasley is Riley's latest reclamation project
September, 11, 2013
By Michael Wallace
Doug Benc/Getty ImagesMichael Beasley is on the Heat ... again.
MIAMI -- One man has pulled off so many hoops coups and basketball miracles that he probably thinks he can fix anything or just about anyone.
Meanwhile, the other man has yet to step into a prosperous situation he hasn't managed to completely screw up.
Pat Riley, meet Michael Beasley.
Oh, that's right. You already know him.
Every instinct you had in 2008 told you to pass on Beasley with the No. 2 pick in the draft, to trade down in the lottery and perhaps partner a later pick with a veteran All-Star.
But instead, you were talked by your staff into selecting Beasley because of his immense promise after Derrick Rose went to Chicago. Then, with buyers' remorse essentially from the outset, you endured two years of problems and immaturity before banishing Beasley in the summer of 2010 to clear space that helped land your current championship squad.
Beasley, get reacquainted with Riley. He's the man you once joked was meaner and more strict than any principal you ever had “in the 20 schools I went to.” Only now, Riley just might be the best disciplinarian who can help salvage a young career derailed by legal troubles, marijuana abuse and inconsistent play every step of the way.
“Michael had the best years of his career with us,” Riley said in a statement issued by the team Wednesday regarding Beasley's first two seasons. “We feel that he can help us.”
For a team that talks so much about reducing the volume on the 'white noise,' combating negative storylines and negating senseless narratives, the Heat sure have a knack for commissioning a police escort into the heart of scrutiny.
But there's a lot of truth in Riley's statement. The only guarantee in this deal is that there's absolutely no way Beasley's addition can hurt the team at this point.
In reality, despite all of the past baggage, this reunion between the Heat and Beasley is low-risk and noncommittal as they come in the league. Under the surface, the one-year, non-guaranteed deal Beasley signed to return to the Heat on Wednesday is nothing more than a glorified invitation to join the team for training camp next month.
Riley could wake up tomorrow with second thoughts and release Beasley over breakfast if so inclined and end this awkward soap opera before the opening scenes unfold.
But with Riley, it's all about the upside -- especially if there is virtually no financial risk or threat to disrupt one of the league's more sound, professional and united locker rooms.
Four years ago, Beasley's childish antics were mostly harmless and brought a sense of levity at times to a franchise that can be almost too buttoned-up.
But that immaturity required almost around-the-clock monitoring by team officials. And Beasley's inability to respond to coaching and structure on the court frequently frustrated Dwyane Wade at a time when the star guard was practically begging for Riley to add veteran roster help in the down years that bridged the championship gap between Shaquille O'Neal's departure in 2007-08 and LeBron James' arrival in 2010.
Back then, Beasley was the catalyst of the Heat's self-proclaimed “Goof Troop” -- a unit of pranksters that included a then-youthful group of Mario Chalmers, Daequan Cook and Joel Anthony. Team officials grew so tired of their antics that at one point they asked the media to stop making references to the nickname in articles.
Now, if Beasley even makes it through camp and is on the roster for the Oct. 29 season opener against Chicago, he'll be far from the center of attention in a locker room dominated by the presence of Wade, James, Chris Bosh, Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Udonis Haslem.
Riley loves reclamation projects as much as he loves championship rings. He almost has one of each for every finger on both hands. And Beasley now joins former No. 1 pick Greg Oden, who signed with the Heat last month to launch his comeback from a three-year injury absence.
Not yet 25, yet already a career double-figure scorer in the league, there's plenty to like about Beasley if there's any way he can finally shake the repeated problems that ultimately led the Phoenix Suns to release him last week after a marijuana arrest despite owing him $8 million.
As one of the faces of your franchise selected second overall, Beasley's problems overshadowed his potential in Miami. He was a headache at best, an embarrassment at worst. Just a couple of months after drafting him, Riley had to answer questions during his Hall of Fame enshrinement weekend about Beasley and Chalmers being caught in a room with unpermitted guest amid the smell of marijuana during the league's rookie symposium.
The summer after his rookie season, Beasley admitted to violating the league's substance abuse program and spent time in a Houston treatment program run by John Lucas. During his second season, the Heat strongly persuaded Beasley to move into a condo within walking distance of the arena to limit potential problems and distractions.
Ultimately, as part of the Heat's pursuit of James in free agency, Riley traded Beasley to the Timberwolves without taking any salary back in return. Miami then filled Beasley's salary slot by signing Mike Miller, who was released by the Heat in July to reduce the luxury-tax bill.
The Heat couldn't grow with Beasley amid all the expectations that came with being the No. 2 pick in the draft. But now, as the No. 14 or No. 15 man on the roster facing perhaps his final opportunity to salvage his career, it's Beasley who now essentially has everything to lose.
Credit Riley for showing some loyalty.
But it means nothing unless Beasley finally responds with some maturity.