The basketball world is often defined by numbers, an easy way to quantify a player's success or failure on the court. It provides basic statistics, measures one's efficiency, and numerically justifies why one player is better than another.
Through three games this season, here are some of the numbers for Miami Heat forward Michael Beasley.
32 minutes. 35 points. 35.6 Player Efficiency Rating.
Despite a productive preseason, Beasley's well-chronicled troubles gave even ardent supporters cause for concern. Moreover, it was only the preseason. Better players than Beasley have struggled in the regular season, coincidentally the man who was picked one spot of him in the 2008 draft.
But Michael's teammates were nothing but supportive, effusing praise as Beasley seemed to embrace his limited role and incorporate certain staples of Heat culture - namely defense and a team-first mentality - into his game.
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra curiously kept Beasley glued to the bench through the first four games, including a four-point upset loss at Philadelphia and a one-point defeat at Brooklyn, tight games where Michael's instant offense might have made the difference. After falling prey to the familiar narrative of sluggish starts this season, Spoelstra had seen enough. During Miami's fifth game against the Toronto Raptors, Beasley version 2.0 got his first minutes of the season.
He did not disappoint. In just under four minutes of play, Beasley scored six points on back-to-back three-pointers once he got in the game. While he did not score for the rest of this short stint, Beasley's defense - a virtual oxymoron through his first five seasons - was even more impressive. Quick rotations on Toronto's Terrence Ross and Landry Fields, who had slipped past their defenders, and a block on Fields had his coach taking notice:
"Michael played, from the outside, a small amount of minutes, but they were important minutes."
He did not play in Miami's following game but, facing a tough Boston Celtics team, Beasley stepped right in and lit up one of the NBA's best defenses. Michael contributed 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting, blowing past slower defenders Kris Humphries, Jared Sullinger and rookie Kelly Olynyk. And he did it in just 8 minutes of play.
Last night's performance against the Milwaukee Bucks has likely put the NBA on notice that Beasley, the talented, self-proclaimed "knucklehead", is a big part of Miami's plans.
In just 20 minutes of play, Beasley took advantage of a depleted Bucks roster - and the absence of Ray Allen and Udonis Haslem - to show the Miami front office that taking a chance on him was a smart move.
A thunderous dunk on a lob pass from Dwyane Wade. A hook-shot in the paint. A three-pointer to put Miami up by 14. A block on Ekpe Udoh that had the crowd on its feet.
Beasley finished the night with 19 points (on 8 of 12 shots), 1 rebound, 3 assists and zero turnovers.
His teammates spoke afterward about the impact they expect from Michael in the future, including this snippet from LeBron James:
I'm staying on him to be him. We didn't bring him here to be a passer. Beas is a great scorer and that's what he does best. Obviously, we want him to continue to make the extra pass -- we don't want him to get in iso (isolation) situations. That's not how we play. But when he has an open look, we want him to go ahead.
And this from Wade:
I wanted to get him involved, I know how dynamic he is as a scorer, what he can bring to this team. We wanted to make sure we got him some touches, get him comfortable a little bit, because we're going to need the guy.
Some more stats show that Beasley provides that offensive burst that the Heat need on their quest for a third straight championship.
65% on all field goal attempts. 67% on three-pointers.
And one more number that might be added to the Beasley equation if he continues to earn playing time - 6th Man of the Year?