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Article:Heat would be foolish to pass on Beasley

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"Character issues."

It's one of those phrases ESPN analysts -- and the other 43,296 sports "experts" in this country alone -- love to throw out when discussing that player who is extremely talented but, alas, messes up once in awhile.

It doesn't have an explicit definition, but it can refer to a player who's been arrested six times, a player who rains money in strip clubs that leads to innocents getting shot, and other kinds of scenarios -- including a player who, I dare say, lets his mother feed him a chicken wing.

So let me ask this question: Which of the CIs listed below do you believe is more serious? And which CI would you be more concerned about if you were interested in employing the man with the CI for a yacht-load of money?

1. A player who is known for being a prankster, including writing his name all over one of the many high schools he attended -- the key words being "high schools."

2. A player whom an extremely detailed report identified as taking gifts from a booster-type figure. A player who despite the evidence continues to deny everything. In my book, almost certain a liar.

If you're an NBA fan, you know whom I am referring to. The first player is Michael Beasley, whom most experts consider the most talented player in Thursday's draft. He also happens to enter the event with the best college numbers despite playing in the super-competitive Big 12.

The second player is also very capable. No one will deny that about O.J. Mayo. But he's not better than Beasley, no matter what his new boy Dwyane Wade thinks and tells the Miami Heat's decision-makers.

More than a month ago, prior to the draft lottery, Beasley was touted as a sure thing to go either No. 1 or No. 2 in the draft along with Memphis point guard Derrick Rose. Now, reportedly, the Heat are having serious doubts and are leaning toward either trading the pick and getting Mayo or Arizona point guard Jarryd Bayless, or simply taking Mayo.

Would the decision come back to haunt them? I'm not going to make that stretch -- Mayo will be far from an NBA scrub. But it would still be a mistake, just not a Sam Bowie -caliber gaffe.

As any expert -- and Beasley's barber -- will tell you, Beasley is a "can't-miss" prospect. Let me translate: He'll be a productive NBA starter for several years to come. In Miami, he could be D-Wade's sidekick, posting up when Wade's outside-penetration game isn't working and also stepping out to shoot the long bombs.

I harbor no doubts that Beasley will be an All-Star at some point for whichever teams drafts him. And he could fit in Miami with Shawn Marion, who is more of a wing player. His rebounding shouldn't be ignored either, as the barber said when he predicted the kid becoming a top-10 guy in that category in all of the league.

Beasley has all the tools to help the Heat quickly place last season's disaster in quick sand. Yet the good old CIs might just get in the way of him ending up in South Beach.

That's sad.

Beasley, no doubt, loves to have a good time. He jokes around, even saying he'll pull a fake handshake on commissioner David Stern Thursday night (I don't think he has the guts for that). He probably goes out and mixes it up with the ladies.

But does he hurt anyone? Has he ever been arrested? And, importantly, did any of these CIs affect him during his stellar season in Manhattan, Kan?

No, no and no.

Beasley has a checkered past, and his comical style might rub some the wrong way, but overall he's innocuous. Just a kid -- who happens to be very good, not to mention hardworking, at basketball -- having fun.

Mayo, on the other hand, has some issues that could affect his pro career -- note the word "could." He, like Beasley, attended several high schools. And he, like Beasley, got into some trouble during his adolescent years, including an incident with a referee that got him ejected from a game, although the ref might have done some acting.

Unlike Beasley, however, Mayo's one-year-and-"see ya" college career is publicly tarnished. A very extensive ESPN investigation revealed that he took about $30,000 in cash and gifts from a sketchy friend during his bike-riding days at USC.

Of course the ongoing investigation can't affect Mayo now, as he will, I'm sure, upgrade from his Huffy to an Escalade in a matter of minutes. But the most troubling aspect of the case is that Mayo has played dumb, repeatedly denying that he did anything wrong when it's pretty clear that he did.

If an NBA organization is ready to take a player with the No. 2 pick in the draft, it should be able to trust that man. Mayo, at least to me -- an outsider who has never stepped within 100 miles of him -- doesn't seem like an honest person.

But on the eve of the draft, it's Beasley's character issues that might drop him a slot. Of course, Minnesota would love to have him, and it would be much easier to stay out of trouble in the chilly Twin Cities.

But Miami, devoid of a front-court star, would miss him in a big way.

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