It was, in a couple of words, so Beasley. In a preseason game against the Pistons, forward Michael Beasley turned the ball over. Upset, he began punching himself in the head as he walked up the floor, sparking a flurry of reports (which Beasley later denied) that he required medical treatment after the game. It was the latest bizarre incident involving Beasley, whose battles with substance abuse and immaturity have overshadowed his considerable talent. Need proof? The Suns, his last team, paid him $7 million not to play for them this season.
Miami—which signed Beasley to a nonguaranteed one-year, $1 million contract in September after he was amnestied—knows how Phoenix feels. The Heat drafted Beasley with the No. 2 pick in 2008 and cut ties with him after two seasons. Yet when Beasley became available, they scooped him up. "We'll go into it with an open canvas," says coach Erik Spoelstra. "It's a totally different role."
Spoelstra hopes Beasley will slip into the spot vacated by Mike Miller, who was bought out by Miami. While nowhere near the shooter Miller is, the 6'9" Beasley is a fluid scoring forward who can back up LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and provide punch to a second unit that ranked 24th in scoring last season (28.8 points per game). Miami's veterans have embraced Beasley's return and believe that with strong locker-room leadership and diminished expectations, he can get back on the path toward realizing his potential.
COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA (6TH SEASON WITH HEAT)
2012--13 RECORD 66--16 (1ST IN SOUTHEAST)
WHAT'S NEW Greg Oden, who hasn't played in four years, and Michael Beasley join the two-time defending champs.
PROJECTED LINEUP (2012--13 STATS)
PG MARIO CHALMERS
8.6 PPG; 3.5 APG; 42.9 FG%; 40.9 3FG%
SG DWYANE WADE
21.2 PPG; 5.1 APG; 52.1 FG%; 25.8 3FG%
SF LEBRON JAMES
26.8 PPG; 8.0 RPG; 7.3 APG; 56.5 FG%
PF UDONIS HASLEM
3.9 PPG; 5.4 RPG; 0.2 BPG; 51.4 FG%
C CHRIS BOSH
16.6 PPG; 6.8 RPG; 1.4 BPG; 53.5 FG%
SG RAY ALLEN
10.9 PPG; 2.7 RPG; 44.9 FG%; 41.9 3FG%
YEARS IN WHICH LeBron James has had 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists. With 2,036, 610 and 551 in 2012--13, he passed Oscar Robertson for the most such seasons in NBA history.
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE HEAT
They have totally bought in to being a defense-first team. The pieces they brought in the last couple of years, guys like Shane Battier and Chris Andersen, think defense, and that has helped.... The biggest deal the last two years is obvious to anyone: LeBron James. His level of play has been off the charts, and it has raised everyone else's.... Dwyane Wade doesn't attack the rim with the abandon that he used to. His first few years, he averaged nine, 10 free throws. Last season he averaged 6.2. I don't think he has the explosiveness to finish plays consistently. Whether he has been pacing himself or lacks that lift, he hasn't been doing it. It affects his three-point shooting as well. He shot only about one three per game last year. When he doesn't have the legs, he doesn't feel comfortable taking those shots. I think Erik Spoelstra will do whatever he can to keep Wade fresh.... At this point Chris Bosh is who he is: He's a jump-shooting big. But he has to give them more at some point as Wade continues to go downhill. They don't have a tremendous front line. For them to be really good, to get to 60-plus wins, Bosh has got to step up his game.... They can afford to take Michael Beasley and Greg Oden and hope the team's culture can get to them. Beasley is a teaser. One out of every 10 games he makes you say, Wow. What could he do if he got his mind right? ... Losing Mike Miller means someone is going to have to take those shots. Is it James Jones? Or Rashard Lewis?
DAVID SANTIAGO/EL NUEVO HERALD/MCT/GETTY IMAGES (BEASLEY)
RECLAMATION PROJECT BEASLEY
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (JAMES)
GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (WADE)
GOOD FOR A SCORE At 31, Wade showed a few signs of slowing down—his forays to the hole were less frequent—but he averaged at least 20 points for the ninth straight season.