MIAMI — Coach Erik Spoelstra has positive memories of forward Michael Beasley.
Beasley played through three separate stints with the Heat, all under Spoelstra. It began when the Heat selected Beasley out of Kansas State with the second overall pick of the 2008 NBA Draft, continued when they signed him for the 2013-14 season to play alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and the Heat later brought him back for a third time after he returned from China late in the 2014-15 season.
“With Michael it’s always been about the right fit and the right timing and the right opportunity,” Spoelstra said Thursday. “And I think people mistakenly overlook his productivity from his [first] two years with us. His rookie year, he started to really come along by the last three months of the season. And then his second year was very productive. He made great strides with his body and his conditioning. His defense improved that year. And he was starting to really become a reliable second or third option for us. I think that was one of his better years. He helped winning. We were a winning playoff team that year. And he had a part in that.”
Beasley has been an effective weapon for the Knicks, which face the Heat in Miami on Friday night. The 28-year-old is averaging 18.3 points on 53.2 percent shooting from the field and 46.7 percent shooting from 3-point range to go with 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists over his past 10 games entering Friday.
But in Miami, Beasley never really lived up to the expectations that come along with being the No. 2 overall pick. He averaged 12.3 points on 46.4 percent shooting and 5.0 rebounds in 238 regular-season games with the Heat over four seasons.
And a few years after his last game in a Heat uniform, Beasley blames Spoelstra for not believing in him enough.
“I feel I could’ve gotten more out of that organization,” Beasley said to the New York Post in advance of Friday’s game between the Heat and Knicks. “I feel Spo’ could’ve believed in me a lot more than he did. It’s in the past. [There’s] no love lost.”
When told he went to play for Spoelstra three separate times, Beasley said to the New York Post: “I had no choice.”
Spoelstra took the high road Friday when asked about Beasley’s comments.
“Jeez, Beas. You threw me under the bus, man,” Spoelstra said with a smile. “We all root for Michael. He’s one of those guys you like having around. He’s got a great personality. When he comes into the gym every single day, it’s with a smile on his face. He’s not afraid of working. He loves the game. I like being around guys like that. There were some very good moments when he was here.”
When asked if he was surprised by Beasley’s comments, Spoelstra said: “No. It’s all good. I probably was crazy the first couple years I was coaching. I probably still am crazy, I don’t know.”
Beasley took a softer approach when asked Friday to clarify his comments regarding Spoelstra.
“I love Spo. Spo is one of my favorite people,” Beasley said. “There was never any bad blood with is. I was frustrated a few nights with not playing and things like. But I don’t have anything against Spo. Never have.”
After averaging 27.3 minutes of playing time per game during his first stint with the Heat from 2008-10, Beasley averaged 15.1 minutes in his second stint in the 2013-14 season and 21.0 minutes in his third stint in the 2014-15 season. He started a total of three games over his last two seasons with Miami.
“I wouldn’t say it didn’t necessarily work,” Spoelstra said of Beasley’s last two stints with the Heat. “Rosters change. That’s the one thing you can always count on. But the last time he was with us, he helped us. We almost made the playoffs that year. You were talking about essentially losing three Hall of Fame players and then the remaining one was hurt toward the end of the year. We were really deep into the rotation and he helped, ended up starting some games for us. We almost got into the playoffs that year.”