Well what do you know? Youth.
And not just Norris Cole.
It has been a while since promise and potential entered the Miami Heat locker room, at least when it has come to potential difference makers.
With Greg Oden and Michael Beasley, the Heat have returned, to a degree, to the hope of size, the hope of skill.
Not that there aren't strings attached.
One teammate said this past week of Oden, who has been out of the NBA for three seasons due primarily to knee issues, "He's a project." As for Beasley? Well, we all recognize that he's been a handful.
This is a somewhat tricky time for Pat Riley. Since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined together in July 2010, it has been about living in the moment, the additions primarily including older, proven types such as Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Chris Andersen.
Then the luxury tax caught up and the mid-level dried up.
The primary reason Oden and Beasley will be in camp is the price tag. In another time, Micky Arison might have spent on pricier, more reliable options.
But Oden and Beasley also offer the type of youth that has been in short supply, with Beasley, at 24, actually three months younger than Cole.
The year before, the rebirth of Eddy Curry proved myth.
Yes, Cole was injected into the mix in 2011-12 directly out of the draft, but he also entered as a four-year collegian, placed in a measured role.
This season, though, come a pair of the most ambitious projects since Riley reverted to championship-or-bust mode.
No, Oden and Beasley, alone, probably aren't enough to sway LeBron during free agency from considering the youthful promise of Andrew Bynum and Kyrie Irving with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But if there is something there, if there is anything there, LeBron at least can envision the presence of a youthful pipeline.
Without life in the lottery, with that lottery-protected first-round pick from the Philadelphia 76ers expected to turn into a pair of second-rounders instead, there are limitations in lining up youth. Ian Clark was a refreshing burst in summer league, only to be pounced upon by the cap-rich Utah Jazz with a $200,00 guarantee. James Ennis never quite measured up in summer league, now trying to shape up Down Under. Perhaps outside-shooting (the Heat's current flavor of choice) center Justin Hamilton can have his moments in training camp.
Or perhaps 25-year-old Greg Oden can find youthful vitality in his knees, perhaps 24-year-old Michael Beasley can gain maturity at least commensurate with his years.
And now, into Pat Riley's lap have dropped a pair of prospects who just might be able to turn back time, slow the clock on the aging of the Heat.
IN THE LANE
ZO'S CHANCE: In the wake of last weekend's Hall of Fame inductions, keep in mind that next year is the first that former Heat center Alonzo Mourning will be eligible. While Mourning's NBA career was limited by his kidney illness, consideration for Springfield also includes college and the Olympics, with Mourning having thrived at both Georgetown and in international competition. Mourning previously had been honored by the Hall for his humanitarian work, in 2009 receiving the Mannie Jackson Basketball's Human Spirit Award. Mourning's NBA credentials including twice being named NBA Defensive Player of the Year (one of only seven players to do so multiple times) and seven All-Star selections. He also shared in the Heat's 2006 NBA championship. Former Heat guard Tim Hardaway also will return to next year's ballot.
ODEN'S OPPORTUNITY: So what has it been like being in the gym with Greg Oden amid the center's return from three seasons out of the league? Heat forward Shane Battier has been among those taking part in the pre-camp workouts. "I think he has an appreciation for the opportunity, which is great, because he's had some tough luck the last couple of years," Battier said. "And so, he's going to give this comeback shot his all, and I think he's in a great spot."
FASHION CHEATS: In an interview with Esquire regarding Fashion Week in New York, Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons said the Heat's Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have the advantage of style shenanigans. "I love those guys and I love their style," the former University of Florida standout said. "But they all have stylists. And good for them, but that's almost like a cheat. Having someone going and getting clothes for you that aren't quite out yet and picking outfits and styling them for you and having all your measurements is obviously the easier way to do it. But those guys definitely dress well and their stylists do a great job with them."
CANDID APPROACH: Even before the arrival of Michael Beasley, James Jones downplayed the notion that he would be able to claim the minutes potentially created by the exile of Miller. "My hopes are always high," he said. "Even though we're a loaded team, my hopes are always high. I'm also anxious for the opportunity. But, in reality, the opportunity does nothing for me if I'm not prepared to seize it. My thought process is the same it's always been: continue to do what I need to do and if the opportunity comes, I'll make the most of it. If it doesn't, to be ready to do what I know I can do, which is help this team."
HOMESPUN: So what happens when you become your D-League's team sole affiliate? You get to serve as keynote speaker for the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce. Such will be the case for Heat President Pat Riley, who gets the assignment Oct. 22 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. The Heat took control of the Sioux Falls Skyforce's basketball operations this season. The cost is $80 for Chamber members.
$4.67 million. Amount Michael Beasley will receive this season from the Phoenix Suns as part of his $7 million buyout for the final two seasons on that contract. He then will receive payments of $778,000 for the following three seasons from the Suns, as "stretch" payments to ease Phoenix's cap hit. Some of that will be offset by any earnings from the Heat.
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