MIAMI (AP) -Michael Beasley looked over the defense, saw Dwyane Wade was open and set the 2006 NBA finals MVP up perfectly for an easy score.
It was only a preseason game, but the moment may have been a harbinger of what awaits the Miami Heat.
A year ago, as they stumbled to the NBA's worst record, Wade and the Heat desperately needed an assist. They hope it's arrived in someone who has gotten more tattoos than birthday cakes, an overgrown teenager who still claims to watch Sponge Bob Square Pants and whose store of choice is Target because he can buy video games, Hot Pockets and a flat-screen TV at the same time.
``How can you beat that? You cannot beat that,'' he marvels.
Beasley is a quirky 19-year-old, for sure.
But he can play - and Wade is thrilled to have him.
``Michael can flat-out do it all,'' Wade said. ``He's one of those players who does things in practice you've never seen. His athleticism, his skill level, it's just there. He'll be able to come in and play right away.''
n they spent the No. 2 pick in this year's draft on Beasley, whose numbers from his lone season at Kansas State were scintillating: 26.2 points, 12.4 rebounds, 54 percent shooting. He scores with either hand, from inside or out, with that uncanny ability to beat defenders in just about every situation.
He is certainly a huge piece of the rebuilding puzzle for Miami, which underwent an offseason dominated by change.
Since last year's 15-67 debacle, Pat Riley took his place in the Hall of Fame, Erik Spoelstra replaced Riley as Miami's coach, and the roster was revamped. Ricky Davis, the only player to appear in more than 69 games for the injury-ravaged Heat last season (he played in 82), departed, as did Jason Williams - the starting point guard on the 2006 title team.
Shaquille O'Neal was traded late in the year to Phoenix and Alonzo Mourning's future remains unclear because of injuries, so the center position remains very suspect.
But where there's Wade, there's hope.
He recovered from a two-year battle with knee pain and was the leading scorer on the U.S. Olympic team that won gold in Beijing this summer. If healthy, he'll put up MVP-caliber numbers. And with Shawn Marion and Udonis Haslem in tow, the Heat have pieces to compete.
mp, come out early on and find a way to stay above water.''
Beasley could make the difference in that quest.
``I will not care what my numbers are,'' Beasley said. ``As long as we're winning, I will be fine. If we're not, I won't be.''
He wouldn't have been fine last year. In high school and college - combined - Beasley's teams lost a total of 17 games. At one point last season, the Heat lost 15 in a row. It's hard to envision a team with Wade, Beasley and Marion enduring a slump like that.
``I'm not going to be the go-to guy,'' Beasley said. ``I'm still trying to find my place. But I can score.''
That's not the only thing he's known for, though.
Beasley knows he has some maturing to do, but doesn't hide his frustration that his prankster ways in high school still lend themselves to questions about his character today. He has a reputation of being aloof, a bad teammate, an egotistical player who only cares about stats.
All not true, he insists.
``I'm a really nice guy,'' he said. ``I don't know why everybody thinks that I'm a jerk, that I have character issues, that I don't care about the team, that I don't work hard. Honestly, I don't know where people get that from. I love kids. I love seeing little kids smile. That makes me smile. The worst thing I did was coming up through high school I wrote on a black car with a black marker.''
. That's how many he owns. Five years ago, his mom was driving him around in a 1989 Nissan Pathfinder. He's found a different path since: There's a Mercedes, a Phantom, a Range Rover and a Bentley in the driveway of his new home.
Good thing his contract is worth $20 million over the next four years, because he's already acquired all those cars, along with seven televisions (for a six-room house), pushed his personal tattoo collection to 25 (a collage that includes dollar signs on the inside of his right forearm and 'Married to the Game' on his left shoulder), along with a wardrobe filled with clothes that were not purchased at Target.
He's never been rich like this before, of course. And at times, it's tough to handle, so he asks for help.
``When you've got a good supporting cast, a good group of people around you, it's not that hard,'' Beasley said. ``I've got veterans on the team, I've got Pat Riley, I've got people in my own circle that I can go to to give me wisdom. So when you've got that, it's not that hard.''
There's a perception that the lure of South Beach is too tough for young athletes in Miami to ignore. Beasley busts that myth.
He can rarely be found near the beach, and has his own unique reason why.
``There's no McDonald's over there,'' he said.
It's the comments like those that remind those around Beasley that he's just a kid.
But his play makes it hard to remember that his rookie season hasn't even started yet.
``He's going to be a great player,'' Wade said. ``He already is. And we're going to be a lot better.''

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