Seven players entered Miami Heat training camp with non-guaranteed contracts. Two survived . . . for now. The approach is decidedly different for veterans Michael Beasley and Roger Mason Jr.
But as Beasley and Mason prepared for their second regular-season week amid the uncertainty that won't fully dissipate until the Jan. 10 NBA guarantee date, when all contracts become guaranteed for the balance of the season, they said the past five weeks have not felt any different than their combined 14 previous seasons in the league.
"Whether you're guaranteed or not guaranteed, you're still running the same sprints, getting yelled at the exact same way," Beasley said with a smile as he launched his Heat reunion tour.
Said Mason: "You control what you can control. Go out there, you play hard, and you know that you can make an impact. I felt like before I signed here that I could add something to this team and that's why I came."
Even with 13 players entering training camp with fully guaranteed deals, Beasley said he never allowed doubt to enter the equation.
"If you think about it like that, it's like thinking not to mess up," he said. "The more you think not to mess up, the more you're going to mess up. You come in here with a clear mind to play basketball and that's what we're asked to do."
Mason, who was given a start in place of sidelined Dwyane Wade on Wednesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, said there is no element of desperation.
"I think it's probably more made of it on the outside, probably," he said. "With me, the way that I approach it is I just do what I do. And so, I can only control that. I can't control contracts, I can't control anything other than being in this moment and that's what I embrace."
The Heat, of course, took a similar approach coming out of camp last season with outside-shooting center Josh Harrellson. Then the January guarantee date approached. And then Harrellson was gone, eventually replaced by Chris Andersen.
For now, it's a matter of showing up for work just like everyone else.
Beasley said it's not as if there has been a different experience through camp and the start of the season for the non-guaranteed players.
"No, not at all," he said. "I mean it's harder. I mean, you got to be in crazy shape to run with these guys. I am now; I wasn't at first. It's not different whether guaranteed or not guaranteed; you're still running the same sprints, running the same plays."
Last season, Mason had a regular role with New Orleans as the team's primary 3-point threat. This season, there is no assigned role. On Tuesday night he was inactive for the opener against the Chicago Bulls; on Wednesday night there was that start against the 76ers.
"You know you're playing for a championship, so there's a sacrifice that comes with that," he said. "All the guys are sacrificing, whether they've sacrificed money, minutes, role, whatever it is. So, you're prepared for that.
"You've got to prepare to have a larger role at times and be prepared to make your role in other ways, whether it's in practice, whether it's on the sidelines, whether it's being a good teammate, or whatever it is."
The Heat, of course, make sure everyone on the roster feels the burn, whether it is additional pregame training with strength coach Bill Foran or vigorous halfcourt scrimmaging with players outside of the primary rotation.
"You put in extra work, it's as simple as that," Beasley said of his move away from the rotation role he previously held with the Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns. "And when your name is called, you've got to be ready."
In the lane
WADE'S WORD: There was an interesting interaction before Wednesday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers, when Dwyane Wade was asked about Allen Iverson's NBA career ultimately coming to an end because he couldn't accept a reserve role. Wade, of course, has yet to be asked for such a concession. Yet. "It's not easy to accept a lesser role when you feel you have more to give," the Heat guard said. "It's got to be something inside that you want to do. No one can make you do it. No one can write an article that will make you do it. You have to be OK with it. Obviously, he didn't want that."
MEDICAL REPORT: When considering Wade's knee issues, consider the view of former Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, now an ESPN commentator. "I'm concerned about Dwyane Wade's injury," Karl said during a conference call. "Everything today seems like organizations are hiding information on exactly what's wrong with a player and what's going to happen. There's a lot of secrecy to injuries. But my feel, from talking to some people, is Dwyane Wade might not be an 82 game player anymore. He might be just a 60 game player, which wouldn't be bad."
CAVALIER INTEREST: For those who believe the Cleveland Cavaliers' future is predicated on a return by LeBron James, owner Dan Gilbert made it clear in a media session prior to his team's opener that third-year point guard Kyrie Irving is the ongoing priority. "We feel good about Kyrie being here for his entire career," Gilbert said. "We think we set up an environment and a culture that's conducive to him being not only an All-Star, but the leader of a championship-contending team."
REVENGE RECEIVED: To a degree, Wednesday's unexpected victory somewhat softened the blow of the 76ers' Brett Brown making his NBA coaching debut against the Heat. Brown was a Spurs assistant coach last season, his previous exposure against the Heat coming in losses in Games 6 and 7 of last season's NBA Finals. "It was really hard, and it surprised me how hard it was," Brown said of overcoming the Spurs' blown Game 6 lead. "In the light of day, you might be driving by yourself and you remember, and it's a hard thing to live through again. To dismiss it and think it doesn't hang around you and always will would be a lie."
SETTLING DOWN: The world tour is over for Chris Quinn, at least for now. After an NBA career that started with the Heat and included stops with the New Jersey Nets, Spurs and Cavaliers, as well as stints in Russia and Spain, the point guard has settled in as director of player development at Northwestern under coach Chris Collins. Quinn, 30, certainly should fit in, as a three-time Academic All-American at Notre Dame. Quinn's best NBA season came with the Heat in 2007-08 (the lamentable 15-67 season), when he averaged 7.8 points and 3.0 assists.
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