Now a Visitor, Beasley Set to Play Again in Miami

The Associated Press

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley (8) drives to the basket defended by Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay, left, and Darrell Arthur, right, in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Nikki Boertman)

MIAMI – Michael Beasley spent two years learning the nuances of NBA play from Udonis Haslem, and quietly showed appreciation this summer for those countless lessons.

It was at the funeral for Haslem’s mother. Barely three weeks after being traded from Miami — months of pleas to stay with the Heat having ultimately fallen on deaf ears — Beasley quietly and somewhat unexpectedly returned to stand by the player who always stood by him.

“That says a lot about Beas,” Haslem said. “He could have just got as far away as he could from Miami and never looked back.”

These days, Beasley isn’t looking back at much of anything.

Determined to embrace a new opportunity in Minnesota, Beasley returns to Miami for the first time as an opponent on Tuesday night when he and the Timberwolves (1-2) get their first live look at the rebuilt Heat (3-1).

“I don’t really worry about too much in the past,” said Beasley, the No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft who leads Minnesota in scoring so far at 14.7 points per game. “The Miami Heat is in my past. The Timberwolves are my future. This is just another regular away game. This is a game we’ve got to win.”

It’s been an adjustment, Beasley getting used to Minnesota. The Wolves run a triangle offense, which is complex to learn, and Beasley acknowledges that process is ongoing.

But fitting into the locker room has been easy for Beasley, and his lighthearted ways have been embraced.

“He’s been great. He’s been absolutely nothing but great,” Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis said. “He has an enthusiasm for life and an ability to play basketball. He feels like he was just born to play basketball. He loves playing, he loves practicing and he’s the guy who keeps our locker room loose. And I’m asking him to do very difficult things. He’s got a long learning process in front of him.”

To portray the Beasley trade as one where Miami got nothing in return besides second-round picks in 2011 and 2014 would be a bit unfair. It could be argued that Miami got most of its team — Mike Miller, Eddie House, Juwan Howard, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Haslem and others — in the deal.

Without trimming Beasley’s $5 million salary from this season’s books, it would have been immeasurably harder for the Heat to have room to attract the cast that’ll surround LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Even though Beasley had no shortage of issues in Miami — getting kicked out of the rookie symposium in 2008 for breaking league rules, spending much of the summer of 2009 in a Houston rehabilitation center, and a few posts on Twitter that further harmed his reputation — the Heat always raved about his talent.

“People forget what it was like when we won 15 games,” Heat President Pat Riley said as the 2010 offseason started. “Ever since Michael’s been drafted, he’s seems to be the most maligned player in the NBA. And we won an average of 45 games in two years, made the playoffs both years, and he was our second-leading scorer.”

Riley told Beasley that the team expected more from him, and Beasley responded by saying he expected more from himself.

But in the end, the dollars were the decider, and cap space turned out to be what Miami needed most from the enigmatic former Kansas State star.

“Congratulations,” Haslem recalled telling Beasley when the trade got done. “Go to another team and be the All-Star that you have the capability of being.”

Beasley might need an All-Star effort just to score against the Heat.

In Miami’s last two games, opposing starters at forward — Rashard Lewis and Quentin Richardson for Orlando on Friday, then Travis Outlaw and Joe Smith for New Jersey on Sunday — have missed every shot they’ve tried against the Heat, that foursome combining miss all 21 of their attempts.

“They use their length. They use their athletic ability,” Beasley said. “They’re using everything they’ve got. They’ve got two of the top five defenders in the NBA.”

The Timberwolves have been in town since Sunday, giving Beasley a chance to see some friends, people he grew close to during his two-plus years as a South Florida resident, even getting an opportunity to check out his old house again.

His trip down Miami’s memory lane won’t continue Tuesday night, he insists.

“We’ve got to come in and play,” Beasley said.

Which is exactly what Haslem always taught him. Block everything else out, and just play.

“Throughout the whole process, regardless of whether Beas started, I started, what was going on outside, what people said, me and Beas still remained close,” Haslem said. “I still looked at him as a brother. And I always will.”