The Miami Heat's Michael Beasley clearly has a lot of emotional problems, which were well-documented even before a bunch of people thought they saw some weed in a self-taken Twitter photo this past weekend. How extensive these problems are I can't possibly speculate. But only a very sensitive person with a lot of hidden inner turmoil responds to amateur CSI-criticism with tweets like, "Feelin like it's not worth livin!!!!!! I'm done." And rather than taking shots at Beasley, we should be extending our sympathies.
Anyone who has ever gone through psychic or emotional trauma knows that it's extremely painful, and those of you who haven't and therefore might feel arrogant enough to unload your verbal diarrhea in the comment sections should consider yourselves lucky. Beasley's a kid. He's made some mistakes (like ditching Darrell Arthur and Mario Chalmers in that hotel room) but nothing out of the ordinary. When a story like this comes out, it should make us more sensitive to mental illness, a disease that, because of its lack of scars and X-Rays, rarely gets treated with the respect it warrants.
That said, it's easy to imagine what happens next if Beasley really is in bad shape. Riley's rebuilding effort has been largely predicated on the hyper-development of Beasley; hence why Riley didn't ship him out this summer to Utah for Carlos Boozer? Dwyane Wade's re-signing with the Heat has been solely predicated upon Riley giving him the pieces to win another championship. So if Beasley isn't destined for stardom--and can't be salvaged, value-wise, in a trade--doesn't that mean Riley's plan has failed irrevocably? And that Wade is gone after this year? (Because without a vastly improved Beasley, the 09-10 Heat are in serious danger of missing the playoffs.)
I'd argue yes. I'd also argue that Riley has been making poor personnel decisions for so long now, it's hard to know where to begin with the criticism. But I'll begin with the trade for Shaq. Yes, it got us one championship, a great run that we'll never forget, but it might have done so at the expense of Wade and a decade's worth of non-competitve basketball. Riley's successes (drafting Wade, getting Shaq, the miracle of Williams/Walker) are well-documented, so let's focus on the negative for a second before we get back to Beasley.
Mistake #1: Breaking up the trio of Wade, Lamar Odom, and Caron Butler. Isn't that more or less what Riley has been promising Wade he's going to re-assemble by next year, a full six years after he already had it? Those three could have grown together--they already had amazing chemistry--and without Shaq's albatross-sized contract, Riley could have added complimentary pieces along the way. In short, it could have been a dynasty. I went to both the 04 and the 06 playoffs, and while the latter was fun, the former was magical. That group had something, and Riley's "must-win-now" philosophy killed it.
Mistake #2: Drafting Dorrell Wright over Jameer Nelson in 2004. You had a team that desparately needed a point guard, that was built, per Riley's design, to win now, yet Pat passed on Nelson in favor of a project player.
Mistake #3: Not breaking up the 06 championship team right away. Everyone knew Jason Williams and Antoine Walker were on their last legs, yet their trade value was never higher than during that summer. NBA organizations are suckers for average players from winning teams (See "Posey, James"), and Riley could have re-stocked the talent fridge while also cutting down on his payroll. A smart GM would have known that team couldn't go back-to-back and acted accordingly.
Mistake #4: Riles intensified his problems by frantically grasping for overpriced straws when the second championship didn't materialize. The acquisition of Ricky Davis and Mark Blount were salary cap killers that he's still paying for, and those embarrasing 06-07 and 07-08 squads killed any chance of keeping Shaq.
Mistake #5: Dumping Shaq for Shawn Marion. As evidenced by the Cleveland aquisition of the Big Panda this summer, the market for Shaq must have been better than Shawn Marion, a nice player who works well in a D'Antoni offense but who is not equipped to be anything more than a fourth fiddle. This is a mild mistake. Shaq's contract made him very difficult to trade (NBA salaries have to match up), and Riley needed to dump him, but I think he could have gotten more.
Mistake #6: Drafting Beasley? Should Riley have listened to Wade, bucked conventional wisdom and taken O.J. Mayo? Perhaps, but I think the Heat-and by extension, the city of Miami-has a real opportunity here. If Wade is serious about being a leader, and Riley is more than a corporate-applicator of Sun Tzu's "Art of War," then both need to step up and help Michael Beasley.
Not Beasley the 2nd Round Draft Pick. Not Beasley the Rebuilding Plan. But Michael Beasley the human being. And it may not happen on Riley and Wade's "win-now" timetable. And it may not happen before Wade becomes a New York Knick. And it may require more than simply checking him into a Houston rehab facility and calling in John Lucas to perform the healing.
Riley needs to look past the flash/Flash, and Miami sports fans need to look past the win column. We drafted Wade and claim him as "ours." Well, Beasley's ours too. And we need to treat him that way.