By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 1, 2010; D01
BOSTON -- Michael Beasley was the last Miami Heat player to leave the court on Tuesday morning, after spending several minutes shooting midrange jumpers and free throws with teammate Udonis Haslem and assistant coach Keith Askins. As he walked to a table to collect his sweats, Beasley noticed they were on the floor, with his headphones, cellphone and sneakers. Dwyane Wade had walked past his belongings moments before, and Beasley suspected that Wade was the culprit.
"Did he knock my stuff down?" Beasley asked a group of reporters, before shaking his head and smiling. "See, you all think Dwyane Wade is such a nice guy. But he's an [expletive]."
Beasley then laughed to himself, hoping those around him would realize that he was kidding. But several hours later Beasley wasn't smiling or joking, following a miserable playoff performance that could lead to his eventual separation from Wade, the Heat's superstar guard whose pending free agency has the franchise and much of South Florida filled with angst.
Beasley, a Frederick native who grew up in Seat Pleasant, was benched for the entire second half of the Heat's season-ending, 96-86 loss to Boston at TD Garden after an ineffective first half in which three of his shots were blocked and he committed three turnovers. As reporters swarmed around his locker room stall, Beasley pulled the hood of his jacket over his head, covering his eyes, and hummed a carefree tune that masked his obvious disappointment. Beasley mumbled and never raised his voice as he spoke, explaining how "terrible" he played.
"It's over. I'm putting it behind me. I'll try to get better," said Beasley, who averaged just 10.4 points against the Celtics. He averaged 14.8 points in his second season with Miami, which drafted him second overall out of Kansas State in 2008, but wasn't sure how his performance in a five-game series loss to the Celtics would affect his future with the Heat. "If it does, I have nothing to do with that. I have no control over that. I hope it doesn't, but I really have no say-so," he said. "I really don't want to leave Miami. I hope I don't get traded but if I do, I've got to love life, keep living."
Beasley has been the subject of trade rumors recently, with the Heat in financial position to pair Wade with at least one maximum-salaried free agent in a star-studded class that likely will include LeBron James, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson.
The Heat could potentially free up enough cap space to add another marquee talent if it can find a taker for Beasley's $4.96 million salary through an uneven deal involving future draft picks, a player with a partially guaranteed contract or a salary dump with a team with room under the salary cap. The Wizards could have more than $21 million in cap space this summer, and while there are varying opinions about Beasley in the front office, some would be open to bringing him to his hometown team, according to a league source.
Beasley hasn't been a bust in Miami, but he hasn't developed into an adequate or reliable running mate for Wade, mixing in flashes of scoring brilliance with occasional mental lapses. And Wade, 28, and the Heat might not be able to wait for the 21-year-old Beasley. "He's a great kid and I know he wants it," Wade said. "It's going to come, hopefully one day, eventually for him. It just wasn't now. No knock against Michael. It's just not his time."
After enduring a franchise-worst 15-win season in 2007-08, the Heat missed out on landing the No. 1 overall pick, which would've been Derrick Rose, who has already blossomed into an all-star in Chicago. O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook and Brook Lopez -- players who were selected after Beasley -- have also emerged as building blocks for their respective franchises. But they also didn't join teams two years removed from a championship and in a rush to reconstruct itself as a title contender.
Beasley has thought about what it would be like to play a leading role on a team -- much like his friend and former AAU teammate Kevin Durant, who was selected No. 2 overall the year before Beasley and led Oklahoma City into the playoffs this season. But that likely won't happen with Wade around. "It's challenging. I've been first option my whole life. But I'm playing behind one of the best players in the world. That man right there," Beasley said, looking over at Wade. He added that Wade "has taught me so much. More than I can ask for, more than I can ever imagine. The things he does night in and night out, the things you guys don't see in practice. It's amazing to watch and it's a blessing to learn from him."
When asked about the prospect of Wade going elsewhere, Beasley said: "I really don't think he's leaving. But if he does . . . I really don't want to think about it. That's 40 points a night. We'd have to do a lot of rebuilding."
Beasley earned first-team all-American honors in his one season in college, leading the Big 12 Conference in scoring and rebounding, but concerns about his maturity have been supported by some missteps in the past two years. His development as a player was truncated last summer by a stint in a Houston rehabilitation facility for violation of substance abuse rules. He was admitted shortly after posting some bizarre messages on his since-closed Twitter account that raised questions about his mental health.
The Heat, which has one of the more structured and regimented systems in the league, encouraged Beasley to move into an apartment within walking distance of the arena and practice facility this season. He didn't have any major hiccups during his second season, after Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra moved him into the starting lineup over the popular Haslem.
"There's so many misconceptions about Mike and unrealistic expectations. We want him to progress at a healthy rate and he has. People view him as if he should be a seven- or eight-year veteran," Spoelstra said. "His progress will be determined by us, not by outside perspective. He's learning how to help a team win. If you're playing on a team that's not in the playoffs, you end up skipping all of those lessons and they play you through your mistakes. Michael did not have that opportunity here, but he's developed into more of a winning player."
Beasley's time in Miami represents his longest run in the same place since entering high school, as he spent time at six different schools in four years and just one year in Manhattan, Kan. Although he has struggled at times dealing with comparisons with his peers, Beasley said he has stopped letting it frustrate him.
"I don't worry about expectations," Beasley said. "Don't expect nothing from me, and you'll be happy after every game. I'm tired of expectations. I was supposed to be this. I was supposed to be that. I'm going to play basketball and be who I be."
Is he concerned about being that player in Miami? "Nah, I'm not," he said. "If it happens, it happens. No hard feelings for anybody. It's life. It's the game. Got to move on."