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After Rocky Summer, Michael Beasley's Back on Track -- For Now

Oct 8, 2009 – 5:00 AM
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Tim Povtak

Tim Povtak %BloggerTitle%

Michael BeasleyORLANDO -- Michael Beasley was in the visitor's locker room Wednesday night before Miami's game against the Magic, chattering away with teammates, ball boys and anyone else who wanted to listen, providing advice on everything from cell phones and head phones to defensive matchups and physical conditioning.

He sounded happy again.

After a particularly unhappy summer that included a league-mandated stay in a substance abuse program in Houston, an exaggerated bout with depression, and a self-inflicted social-networking disaster, he looked both relieved and excited that another basketball season was starting.

"I'm anxious, nervous, excited to get back on the court, to doing what I do best,'' he told FanHouse Wednesday night. "I'm back in my sanctuary, where I can put all that other stuff out of my head. It's the only place where I really can get away from it all.''
Orlando 90, Miami 86: Box Score

Beasley, the talented but troubled forward from Kansas State, still played Wednesday night with those sad, droopy eyes that he always has, but he sounded confident about overcoming his demons, fulfilling the promise that originally made him so attractive to the Heat, who took him with the No. 2 pick of the 2008 Draft.

``When I'm on the court, I feel 100 percent right. It's what I do."
- Michael Beasley
"When I'm on the court, I feel 100 percent right. It's what I do,'' he said. "I'm ready to expand my role, take more responsibility, but it's going to take more time and hard work to make it happen.''

Beasley had 12 points and 4 rebounds Wednesday night in 30 minutes, playing both small and power forward, showing some of the versatility that makes him so intriguing. His shot was off (3-of-13), but the rest of his game wasn't bad. At 6-9, 245 pounds, he is too powerful for most small forwards to guard, yet too quick and athletic for power forwards to chase.

The Magic beat the Heat, 90-86, in a typically sloppy exhibition game.

Although Beasley's summer was a public relations nightmare for the Heat, he actually worked harder than he ever has during a basketball offseason, adding 10 pounds of muscle from a year ago. During his seven weeks of treatment in Houston, the Heat made sure their conditioning coach was never far away. They worked out every day he was there.

Michael Beasley"He blew everyone away with his conditioning tests,'' said Heat coach Eric Spoelstra. "He worked hard. He spent the whole summer working with us. He got better each month as a rookie. Combine that with that a productive summer, and he's going to be a much better player for us. And that's the way it should be.''

Beasley averaged 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds in 24.8 minutes, mostly as a reserve last season. More than anyone else, he is the one Miami needs to relieve the pressure on All-Star Dwyane Wade this season. Although it's risky to count so heavily on a player with such an unstable past, the Heat had little choice when they opted against any major moves this summer, deciding that salary cap flexibility was more important.

"I'm stronger now," Beasley said. "I can still play quick, but I'm not as fragile as I was last year. It's not like I got pushed around, it's just that I could have finished better with this strength I have now. I've never been more ready to play. Dwyane can't score every point again. I can help him.''

The Heat make it obvious how much Beasley's success could mean to the franchise. He is coached more than anyone else on the roster. During every timeout, there is an assistant coach offering advice, making a point, talking in his ear, keeping him focused, making sure he understands the stakes.

Beasley told South Florida reporters early in training camp that he is one substance abuse violation away from a mandated suspension. Under NBA rules, a third violation or failed drug test warrants a five-game suspension.

"I really don't know, don't want to find out, and don't plan on finding out,'' he said during that earlier interview in Miami. "I put my career and my livelihood in jeopardy.''

Spoelstra said Wednesday night that he was happy with the progress Beasley has made, making sure to praise some of his defensive improvements.

"I don't feel like I have anything to prove,'' Beasley said from the locker room. "I'm just playing basketball again. And that's good.''
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