Michael Beasley: 'My First Time Around, I Was a Knucklehead'

Ethan Skolnick@@EthanJSkolnickNBA Senior WriterOctober 13, 2013

MIAMI — His nickname is B-Easy.

His Twitter handle is @easyst0.

There's nothing easy, though, about Michael Beasley's situation with the Miami Heat. There's nothing easy about asking for another chance from the same people who provided the initial opportunity you squandered. There's nothing easy about trying to fit in with a returning champion, and to do so on a contract with no guarantee. There's nothing easy about acknowledging mistakes, over and over.

There's nothing easy about doing this in public, with the media so eager to recall—and constantly demanding you relive—your previous failings. 

So, say this much for Beasley through the first two weeks of his second go-round with Miami: He's handling all these hard parts surprisingly well so far, showing a vulnerability and maturity that appears authentic. 

"My first time around, I was a knucklehead," Beasley acknowledged after Sunday's practice. "Just that guy, coming from nothing, into a lot of money that just thought he knew everything. This time around, I'm just going to try to be more part of the team and more part of the community and more part of Miami Heat culture. And it takes effort."

That was evident Saturday night after a road trip in which he efficiently scored 22 points in 28 minutes over two games, as he was the only other Heat player to appear at Dwyane Wade's GQ/Hennessy event on South Beach.

Wade arrived fashionably late, and when he did, they hugged and posed for photos together. Just like old times, when they were the team's primary scorers. Only now Wade has won two more championships, and Beasley is returning after falling out of favor with two other organizations. 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS - OCTOBER 2:  LeBron James #6, Dwyane Wade #3 and Michael Beasley #8 The Miami Heat participate in Training Camp on October 2, 2013 at Atlantis Resort in Nassau, Bahamas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downlo
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

"It takes me taking an extra step, doing things like I did last night, charity events. I plan to do a toy drive, or I know (Udonis Haslem) does a toy drive, so I plan to help him with that toy drive," Beasley said. "Just being more a part of the culture and being more hands-on."

Even if his hands sometimes shake.

Beasley has said repeatedly, and did again Sunday, that he was edgy about re-entering the Heat environment. 

"I kind of came in with an eerie feeling, kind of scared and nervous, as to how they were going to accept me," Beasley said. "But everybody from D-Wade to UD to Mario (Chalmers) to Joel (Anthony) and even LeBron (James), everybody's just taken me in as their little brother. It just feels good to be wanted. To actually be somewhere where they want to have you."

And that, he says, has extended outside the facility. 

"I'm actually scared to go in public sometimes, because [of] that same eerie feeling I had coming into the locker room," Beasley said. "You don't know. But walking around downtown, and just going to the event last night, everybody loves me. All I get is 'Welcome back.' 'Happy to have you.' 'Let's get a threepeat.'

"Just to have that type of love, walking around the city outside of the arena, it's the cherries on top."

That's actually an apt description of his potential role on this roster. He's a potential sweetener to an already tasty mix. Beasley stated Sunday that "he's ready for more" opportunities than he's gotten so far. Still, he has shown the necessary recognition of the circumstances, that he's not likely to be a go-to scorer with this group, that he needs to focus on the so-called effort areas.

"Everything I've done on offense the past two games has honestly been an accident," Beasley said. "I'm just trying to play hard on defense, trying to rebound the ball a little better than I have been." 

Here's the reality: If he does those things at merely an adequate level, he's a serious threat to crack a stacked rotation.

That's because he can do something that no one else, other than Norris Cole on occasion, can. He can create a shot with his dribble. That ability could make Erik Spoelstra feel a bit more comfortable resting two of the Big Three more often, with the remaining one working with Beasley to generate offense.

Wade, even while still labeling Beasley a "raw talent," acknowledged that Beasley's proven skill at getting "his shot for himself" has the chance to "become another dynamic that we didn't [have] the past couple of years on the second unit." 

And could Beasley work his way into a bigger role later on?

"I'm not that smart to look that far," Beasley said, smiling. "I'm just trying to take it day by day." 

He's doing so with a smile, resisting reporters' repeated attempts to get him to bash the Minnesota Timberwolves or Phoenix Suns and turning the conversation back to the present.

He said Heat culture "means everything to me."

What is that? 

Oct 7, 2013; Miami, FL, USA;  Miami Heat small forward Michael Beasley (floor) with shooting guard Ray Allen (from left to right) power forward Udonis Haslem, small forward LeBron James and shooting guard Dwyane Wade in the second half of a game against t
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

"It's the way they live, the way they play," Beasley noted. "It's just doing things the right way, doing them in good faith, and doing them all hard."

The critics will say that Beasley didn't do enough of those things during his first exposure to Heat culture. They'll say there's no reason to believe he'll conform this time, especially if the minutes are so scarce that he believes he's receiving little reward for his compliance. They may be right.

But there's also plenty of examples of players who had some trouble elsewhere, from Anthony Mason to Rod Strickland to Lamar Odom, who responded well to the Heat's structure. 

"It's a mindset, I guess," Shane Battier explained. "When you come to work, you are expected to work. You are expected to focus and concentrate. That sounds like a basic tenet for an NBA player, but that's not always the case... Every team has its own culture, but the Heat [have] sort of branded it, and they talk about and extol its virtues, so it's a more tangible thing than other places."

And longtime Heat coaches and officials will tell you the organization has never had a more professional core of players. 

"I always think that the strongest force on a team is peer pressure," Battier said. "No one wants to be the outlier and look like an idiot. And if you come here and you act like an idiot, you're really on the outside. It goes back to culture. Guys want to fit in. And when you see everyone come to work, be professional, do their jobs, play hard, have a good time, you buy in. That's the strength of this group."

Is it strong enough to help reform a self-proclaimed knucklehead?

Turns out it might not be as hard as we thought.

Ethan Skolnick covers the Miami Heat for Bleacher Report.


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