MIAMI — Mario Chalmers laughs at the question because he already knows the answer.
So when asked what he is looking forward to when he returns Sunday with the Ice Cube’s Big3 halfcourt league for a game at the Kaseya Center, it’s as if he has a clear lane for a layup.
“Just being able to show my offensive skill set,” he said, then pausing for effect, before adding, “without having to pass the ball to the Big Three.”
At 37, this is the fun part of Chalmers, as he returns to the arena where he shared two championships alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, in 2012 and ’13.
It has been a decade since the last of those championships, and, to a degree, it has been a trip through the basketball wilderness, time with teams in Italy, Greece, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and this past season, Malaysia.
But while the Big3 is viewed as a semi-retirement tour for some, for Chalmers it is active nostalgia, again playing as a teammate of former Heat forward Michael Beasley, on the 3’s Company roster that will play in the third of the six games scheduled for Sunday at the Kaseya Center.
Each drafted in 2008, Beasley at No. 2 by the Heat, Chalmers a trade acquisition by the Heat at No. 34, the two have remained close despite divergent paths.
Beasley was dealt by the Heat in the 2010 offseason in order to clear the cap space needed to add Mike Miller to the core of James, Wade and Bosh. Chalmers would go on to four consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals before being dealt in 2015 to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Now, back in the same colors.
“It’s great being around Beasley,” Chalmers said, “somebody that I’ve been friendly with for over 20 years and battling on the court with.” So it’s nice to have him on my side.”
Now 34, Beasley joked about Chalmers remaining a steady force for him on the court.
“He makes it easier,” he said. “I get a little confused out there, you know my MO He just makes it easy out there.”
Beasley, who had two brief reunion tours with the Heat in the following seasons, has been out of the league since Feb. 2019.
Chalmers has been out of the NBA since April 2018, but was back with the Heat in 2021-22 as COVID depleted rosters, on an emergency 10-day contract.
But unlike this Big3 appearance, Chalmers never got on the court with the clock running at the Heat’s arena, not used over those 10 days by coach Erik Spoelstra.
“That was mixed emotions,” Chalmers said. “But it was great for the experience. I’ll forever be thankful for that. But of course being the person I am and the player I am, I definitely wanted to step on the court and show that I can still compete with these guys. But that opportunity never presented itself.”
As with Chalmers, there are also mixed Heat emotions from Beasley.
But, he said, it was about more than being dealt ahead of the Heat’s Big Three championship era.
“I spoke to Pat Riley. I knew about the trade before anyone else did,” he said of being traded in 2010 to the Minnesota Timberwolves. “So I wasn’t mad about that. I was mad that every night, for the first two years of my career, I was watching half the game on the bench.”
It was a tumultuous run for Beasley for other reasons, as well. And, yet, to a degree, he was also a player ahead of his time. The suspensions for marijuana use would practically be non-issues in today’s NBA, the league no longer testing.
“I just love the fact that guys now are able to be themselves,” he said of the NBA’s dramatic reversal in policy, “do what they can to better themselves mentally, physically for the game.
“I would really say I was a little bit ahead of my time with my game. People looked at the way I played basketball and expected me to be 25 or 30 right away, instead of acknowledging I was a 19-year-old kid.”
The kid stuff is over now.
“I’m just being a dad,” he said. “I got a 14-year-old I had when I was a rookie. She’s 6 foot 5 now. So I’m going to AAU games and things like that.”
Still with a love of the game, something he said will be clear Sunday, even if in a half-court setting against some a decade or more older,
“I’m happy to be out there again. Happy to be dribbling the ball for a purpose,” he said. “Take the cameras away, take the money away, basketball is just what I love to do. I just love being better than who’s on the other side of the basketball.”
As is Chalmers.
“Just being able to go back underneath those banners and lace it up on that court, and just feel the love from the fans and the love in that arena and the energy in that arena,” Chalmers said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve played there.”
(Among other former Heat players scheduled to participate in the Big3 Sunday at Kaseya Center are Joe Johnson, Jamario Moon, Rashard Lewis and Gerald Green. Tickets are available at big3.com, starting at $25.)
IN THE LANE
ABOUT OMER: Even before the Heat bypassed a qualifying offer to Omer Yurtseven ahead of free agency, therefore bypassing the right to match outside offers, it was apparent the team had planned to move on from the 7-footer. Whether it was defense, entitlement or simply an approach that largely favored smaller balls, the fact that Yurtseven was hardly given a look after recovering from this past season’s ankle surgery spoke volumes. Dewayne Dedmon played ahead of him a season ago. Cody Zeller played ahead of him this past season. Heck, there were times Erik Spoelstra turned to Haywood Highsmith before Yurtseven. In the right system, there remains the chance to reemerge to something similar to what Yurtseven showed in the middle of 2021-22, when Bam Adebayo was sidelined by thumb surgery. Still, don’t automatically assume that will happen with the Utah Jazz after he signed there Monday.
YURTSEVEN, PART II: As a matter of perspective with Yurtseven, the Jazz signed former University School product Vernon Carey Jr. the final weekend of this past season, effectively on a tryout basis. The 6-foot-9 forward was then released on July 8, after appearing in just two summer-league games. The Jazz also tried to sign Paul Reed away from the Philadelphia 76ers as a restricted free agent, moving to Yurtseven only when the 76ers matched that offer sheet. For now, Yurtseven figures to set up in the Jazz power rotation behind Walker Kessler, Kelly Olynyk, Lauri Markkanen and John Collins. As it is, only $1.4 million is guaranteed in the two-year, $5.5 million contract signed by Yurtseven. Half of the $2.8 million in the first season is guaranteed, with the $2.7 million in the second year non-guaranteed. “I think more than anything, it’s whatever you make it,” Yurtseven said of the opportunity on the Roundball Roundup podcast. “The only thing I’ll focus on is listening and staying malleable, but also being aggressive. I think those things – like energy and effort – those kind of things can solve a lot of the problems and being able to focus on that is going to be a priority.”
INSTANT RESPECT: The move to utilize assistant coach Caron Butler as the Heat’s coach in the summer league was inspired, particularly inspiring to the players he worked with, the respect apparent from the start of the team’s summer camp in Sacramento to last weekend’s finish in Las Vegas. Like David Fizdale and Juan Howardhe could yet be another one that gets away from Erik Spoelstra. Butler made it clear from the start that he was all-in on the Heat’s developmental approach. “You have to have the disposition of emptying yourself on both ends of the floor,” Butler said of the disposition demanded. “You have to be able to retain information on the fly. And all these guys have done an exceptional job of doing that — receiving information and then applying it in real time.”
SPEAKING OF: There has already been one move made with Spoelstra’s staff, with Anthony Carter leaving his Heat developmental role to join the staff of the Memphis Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins. Based on the Heat’s summer-league hierarchy, figure on Eric Glass and Dan Bisaccio to move up on Spoelstra’s developmental staff. Carter was unique in his ability to mesh with neophytes such as Max Strus and Gabe Vincentbut also with veterans, emerging as PJ Tucker’s workout partner in 2021-22.
4. Years between Heat first-team All-Summer League selections in Las Vegas. Orlando Robinson was named first-team this past week for his efforts this month. The Heat’s previous first-team selection was in the Las Vegas summer league Kendrick Nunn in 2019 (there was no summer league in 2020 due to the pandemic). The two, in fact, are the only two Heat players to be named to the All-Summer League teams in Las Vegas, either first or second team. The Heat had bypassed the event for several years, when fielding a team was not mandatory.