MIAMI – For the first time this season, the Miami Heat practiced Sunday with only 15 players on the roster.
Michael Beasley was one of them.
The cuts have been made, the team for opening night has been selected, and Beasley has his first victory of the season. He's still in Miami. There was no guarantee that he would stick with the Heat, even after he decided to accept a one-year non-guaranteed contract. But when the team's braintrust gathered Friday night to decide how many and which players to keep, Beasley remained in the mix.
So he'll be there when the Heat get their rings and see their championship banner raised Tuesday night. Beasley won't be getting a ring, of course. What he said he will get that night is inspiration to be a real part of one of those title-savoring parties sooner than later.
"Regardless of the year or who you have returning from your roster and who you're bringing in, it's always so many tough decisions," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "I sat in (Friday night's meeting) for about an hour. They stayed there until about 3 o'clock in the morning, talking about the roster and the last few spots. It always comes down to it. I don't know why. Now we've got our 15 and we're looking forward to starting the next step."
Beasley played with Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, James Jones and Joel Anthony during his first stint in Miami. Combined, they will have a total of 12 Heat championship rings by the time Tuesday's ceremony ends. Beasley is still waiting for his first.
But given the potential of this Heat team, albeit with Beasley in a far different role than what he had the first time around in Miami, that wait could end about a year from now.
"We can't play 82 games tomorrow and play a whole season in the next week," Beasley said. "I'll continue to work hard, continue to do my part, continue to gain the trust of my teammates. If I get that chance, I get that chance. Just trying to take it day by day."
The trust part of that statement is vital to Beasley these days.
His first five NBA seasons were filled with tumult. His play has been inconsistent. Phoenix, which is expected to be a club that struggles mightily this season, is paying him $7 million to not wear a Suns uniform — he was bought out this summer, a few weeks after being arrested and charged with marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. It was the latest in a series of marijuana-involved incidents that have plagued his career.
He was asked after the preseason finale if winning the Heat trust again was a camp priority.
"Was? No. Still is," Beasley said. "Getting the trust of my teammates and the trust of my coach, that's really the only thing that matters. The looks in their face when I do something wrong, it feels weird enough. I want to get to the point where me doing something is not so exciting anymore."
Teammates know what he can add to a club that was good enough to win the last two NBA titles. Wade once led an Olympic team in scoring by flourishing off the bench. He sees no reason why Beasley can't be a colossal matchup problem in a similar role.
"There's no question," Wade said. "He can make us better."
Beasley has the same locker in Miami as he had before, right next to Haslem, with whom he has a particularly close relationship. When Haslem's mother died in 2010, Beasley came back for the funeral, even though the Heat had traded him a few weeks earlier to Minnesota.
Many around the franchise remembered that quiet gesture as the ultimate sign of respect. And Beasley said that when he came back to Miami on this deal, he was touched that people like Spoelstra, Wade and Haslem still thought of him as members of the Heat family.
"When I came to Miami, I was 19, didn't know anything, didn't know anybody," Beasley said. "Udonis just brought me in. His mother was like my mother. My mother was like his mother. So when that happened, that was me showing respect."
And now in Part 2 of Beasley-in-Miami, it's Haslem again watching over — and looking out for — the wildly talented forward.
"We know he can score the ball," Haslem said. "He's not going to have a problem scoring the ball. He's going to be a matchup problem at (power forward) for anybody. Our thing is, we have a defensive system and when the going gets tough, Coach Spo looks for toughness. He's going to have to do those things if he wants to be on the floor for us."