MIAMI – New additions Michael Beasley and Greg Oden add a little intrigue to what would otherwise have been a very steady-and-settled training camp for the Miami Heat. Beasley was brought in on a non-guaranteed deal after being waived by the Phoenix Suns just one year into a three-year contract. Oden is trying to return from a nearly four-year absence and multiple knee injuries.
With the Heat returning the top nine players in their championship rotation, there’s no real need for either Beasley or Oden to contribute right away, or at all, really. Mike Miller is gone, which is a true loss, but Miller was only needed for spot duty last season. That role could be filled by James Jones or Rashard Lewis.
Both newcomers arrive with more doubt than promise, Oden because he hasn’t played since December of 2009 and Beasley because he seems to be a terrible fit for the Heat’s efficient and LeBron James-focused system.
As was the case with Eddy Curry two seasons ago, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra doesn’t have either guy penciled in for any particular role.
“No expectations,” Spoelstra said of both guys. For Oden, the next several months are about getting healthy and in basketball shape.
“He’s inspired by the opportunity to help us,” Spoelstra said. “But more than anything, we just want to see him get back out there, have a smile on his face, and be able to do what he loves. He’s had some setbacks, but that does not define his whole career. This, we feel, is a perfect fit for him.
“I’m going into it with a open mind. No expectations. There’s certainly no timetable. He’s in here five hours a day. He’s doing more and more. The biggest test with us is can we add to the workload and see how he feels the next day, and without the timetable of having to perform and have those expectations.”
Oden said it’s going to “take some time” for him to get back to feeling comfortable on the court. And though his knees “slow me down just a little bit,” he’s happy to be where he is in the process.
“I haven’t be doing anything but just rehabbing for the past three [years],” he said. “Right now, I’ve been on the court. I’ve been running up and down a little bit. And that’s more than I can say I’ve done in three years.”
Earning a spot in the rotation isn’t on his mind right now, which is an expectation well aligned with his new team.
“A mark of success for me is walking on to a court and walking off healthy,” he said. “Being able to play in a game and just walk off the court healthy, no matter if it was one minute or two minutes. My dream is being able to play basketball, and if I can go out there and do it, run up and down and come off the court again healthy, that’s goal one. Goal two is going to my second game, going on the court and walking off.”
For Beasley, this is about seeing if he can fit in with what the Heat have built since they sent him packing three years ago. He certainly has the talent to help this team, but his inefficient and erratic style of play, not to mention his lack of focus, would seemingly be a detriment to what is a disciplined and well-oiled machine on both ends of the floor.
“I’m happy he’s back,” Dwyane Wade said of Beasley. “I think he’s a spark plug that this team needed from a talent standpoint. But as I always say, Michael’s greatness is on Michael. How great he wants to be will be predicated on him.”
Ultimately, the move could benefit Beasley more than it does the Heat … if they keep him around for more than a couple of weeks.
“We’re excited about just bringing him back into our organization and everything that comes with it, the culture, the discipline, the structure,” Spoelstra said. “We were glad we were able to have that opportunity for him and I think he’s very happy to be able to get back with us.”
“I’m coming here knowing that this team doesn’t need me,” Beasley said. “I’m grateful that they still even care.”
Including Oden, the Heat have 13 guys on guaranteed contracts. So there is space for Beasley if he can keep from being a distraction and somehow find a role. It seems like a long shot.
But this isn’t just a challenge for Beasley and Oden. Making what they can of these two reclamation projects is also a new project for the two-time champs. James feels a responsibility to integrate both into the Heat locker room.
“We can’t change the past,” he said. “We can only focus on the present and the future. Me as a leader, I’m excited to have them here and to help them get back to a point where they feel like they mean something, not only to this team, but prove to themselves that they can play this game and play it at a high level.”