Michael Beasley is returning to Miami aiming to help his new Minnesota Timberwolves club find a way to beat the Heat.
There won’t be any animosity upon his return, though, as he’s still considered family by many Heat fans, coaches, and players; especially Udonis Haslem.
“He’s like a little brother to me,” Haslem said when recently discussing Beasley with reporters. “The sky is the limit [for him]. An unbelievable talent; unmeasurable talent. He needs to continue to just become a student of the game and continue to work and learn and get a feel, and all that stuff will come with time and experience.”
The bond between Beasley and Udonis is easy to understand. Haslem was the Heat’s starting power forward when Miami drafted the Kansas State standout with the second overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, and quickly took the young player under his wing, trying his best to teach him the fundamentals of the game, as well as innumerable lessons about life.
Beasley took to that tutelage, and even when he was elevated above his mentor the next season to a starting role on the Heat, their bond never wavered. It was so strong that even after Michael was traded away following the signing of LeBron James, he returned to the Miami area just three weeks later to attend the funeral service of Haslem’s mother, who passed away this year.
“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.”
In many ways, Beasley hasn’t looked back, saying in reference to his return to Miami tonight and the circumstances that led to his departure, “I don’t really worry about too much in the past. 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.”
He and the Timberwolves will have a decidedly tough time with that going up against the NBA’s stingiest defense this season. Despite their friendship, Haslem won’t be taking it easy on the young player, and neither will starting power forward Chris Bosh.
Still, if Beas were to hit the floor hard taking a charge or something during the game, I’m sure Udonis would be one of the first players from either team there to help him up because of their friendship.
“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.”
Haslem isn’t the only player for the Heat who has fond memories of Beasley, either. Dwyane Wade jokingly referred to him with a huge smile on his face in a recent press session, saying:
“Michael who? Oh, Beasley. I forgot that guy. Nah, Michael is a great kid. He’s one of my favorite guys. Michael grew so much when he was here in Miami. There aren’t many players who stay in one uniform for their whole careers, so there’s no knock against Michael that he’s not here anymore. I mean, look at the guys that had to come here for him not to be here.”
Although Beasley’s still well thought of in South Beach, that’s not to say he didn’t have his controversies; or detractors. There were a number of them, including a stint in a rehab during the offseason just a little over a year ago. However, they weren’t enough of a problem that many fans wish the Heat had been able to find a way to keep him on the superstar-laden squad they’d built over the summer.
That’s because, as Haslem stated, Beasley’s talent is immeasurable. He is still so young he could eventually develop into one of the best power forward’s in the game, and Miami fans might look back on it years from now and talk about how the Heat had “let him get away.”
Not that Miami fans aren’t completely content with the team Pat Riley was able to create because of the trade of Beasley to Minnesota. Without that move, Miami likely wouldn’t have been able to find a way to re-sign Haslem himself, as well as injured sharpshooter Mike Miller and others.
Still, even the man who traded him away to make those moves, Heat President Pat Riley, has said of Beasley, “People forget what it was like when we won 15 games. Ever since Michael’s been drafted, he seems to be the most maligned player in the NBA, and we won an average of 45 games over two years [with Beasley], made the playoffs both years, and he was our second-leading scorer.”
The Minnesota organization thinks just as highly of their newly-acquired power forward, who is averaging a team-best 14.7 PPG for the Timberwolves (recording his first double-double for his new squad with 21 points and 10 rebounds in a victory against the Milwaukee Bucks this past week); just recently exercising a contract option on him for next season.
“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.”
Regardless of how well Michael plays in the future for Minnesota, Heat fans are sure of one thing; they don’t want him to play well enough tonight to help his Timberwolves find a way to upset their beloved Miami squad.
Friend to some of the Heat players or not, fans of Miami want their South Beach Superteam comprised of the “Three Kings” to demolish Minnesota in the same way they whupped the Orlando Magic’s and New Jersey Nets’ butts.
They can hug Michael before the game starts, shake his hand, and slap his back in a gesture of camaraderie, but they better get out their sticks and beat him down on the court afterward.
Welcome back, Beas. Now here you go, take this ass-whuppin’ while you’re here.