Everybody likes a comeback story, especially if that story involves someone that has been brought down from a place of esteemed height at one point. What people also like is a story of positive transformation. That brings us to the Miami Heat’s two biggest offseason acquisitions, Greg Oden and Michael Beasley.
Oden and Beasley have had two very different career paths, but both feature the same disappointment from previous teams and fans.
Former draft status notwithstanding, the equally troubled duo have hopes of resurrecting their careers and making a team that has all the ingredients to succeed with or without them. Oden hasn’t seen an NBA court since December 5, 2009, due to a seemingly infinite number of knee surgeries. On the other hand, Beasley has been healthy enough to play but has squandered his opportunities and forced himself out of town on three separate teams. He has been mired in off-the-court troubles and uninspired play. Now the team that originally drafted him has brought him back for part two.
Oden’s story is that of a nice, young (older looking) man trying to find his way back through a minefield of knee injuries. Beasley comes off (maybe unintentionally so) as the bad boy who may not even really like basketball but plays because people say he can.
You don’t have to blindly buy into either way of thinking. But after speaking to both of them and some of their teammates at the Heat’s media day, it shed some light on both players.
“I got a lot to prove to myself. It’s been a long road for me. I’ve been rehabbing for three years” said Oden when asked about his role and if he felt he needed to live up to expectations.
“When I am finally in that first game â€” even if I play five minutes â€” just to be able to end the game and be healthy that’s going to be a big step for me.” Sincerity and humility, with only the slightest chaser of confidence, stirs in his voice with that statement.
You can tell his heart is heavy after his knee has failed him one time too many. He just wants to play and become more than just a nice guy who has had some bad breaks.
Beasley was asked a similar question and shrugged his previous mistakes off as part of life. When asked if he had any regrets, Beasley simply said, “No” with both sincerity, confidence and an edge of defiance. While it might be easy to scratch one’s head at his seemingly cavalier attitude towards previous transgressions, further comments show Beasley might be growing.
“Is my career where I want it to be? Not by a long shot,” he said.
“But is my career a total disappointment? No. I’m happy with where I’m at so far, It’s just a different path to the top.
“Coming to a team that has been at the top of the league in scoring, my (offensive) niche doesn’t carry much weight here. So I have to find a new niche. I have got to find a new style and way to play.”
Beasley has a good-natured personality but it takes the right questions to bring that out. Certainly one does not want to be cross examined about his/her mistakes, but the life of an athlete lends itself to such scrutiny. Beasley isn’t a regular Joe with a 9-5 job at a department store. That’s what he sometimes fails to realize.
Longtime veteran and Heat-lifer Udonis Haslem thinks Beasley will be fine in his second stint with the team.
“I could be wrong but I think he understands the magnitude of his situation and I’m fully confident that he’s going to get it right this time. Aside from D-Wade, who’s like my brother, I consider ‘Beas’ to be like my little brother. There’s just a lot of love there and there’s never been any love lost,” said Haslem.
“I’ve talked to him and we understand each other. He probably didn’t agree with everything I said, but he knows I have his best interest at heart. I sat with him and Mario [Chalmers] and said that we shouldn’t have to worry about the same things we did with you five or six years ago.”
Wade, who some believe grew tired of Beasley during his first stop in Miami, said of Beasley, “I’m happy he’s back. 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. So we’ll see.”
Meanwhile, the svelte, 278 lb. Oden dreams of just being able to complete games without any further setbacks. He expressed appreciation for the Heat organization after allowing him to be on the team with a no more expectations to fulfill, save continued health.
“They are going to give me time to make sure my knee is healthy when I get out there. I’m thankful and that’s one of the reasons why I came here. I knew they believed that there training staff could get me back on the court where I can actually contribute,” said Oden.
Coach [Erik] Spoelstra reinforced Oden’s claim and said it held true for Beasley as well.
With Oden, he said there was no timetable for a return to the court, but he wants to see Oden’s smile back out on the floor at some point. For Beasley, it was a little more ominous:
“There are some open slots…but in terms of having him [Beasley] specifically slotted, no,” said Spoelstra.
The irony for both players is that only production will end the disparaging comments. A reduction of criticism can only come through their active contributions on the floor. Patience is a virtue they will have to exercise before redemption can wash over them and erase their unfortunate beginnings in the NBA.
You don’t have to like the Heat to root for either of these guys. You just have to be someone who cares for transformation/comeback stories. Both of them need it.
What do you think?
Follow Warren on Twitter at @ShawSports.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.