“Why can’t you just say you like Bassy? Why you gotta say you like him way more than Jonny?”
Those words were directed at my friend Brian, who had spent too much time in Kieren’s Irish Pub after a weeknight Wolves game in early 2011. We were headed home — me directly, Brian to his bus stop — when we came upon a slew of Timberwolves and Pacers hanging outside of Seven Steakhouse, presumably having finished dinner and waiting for their rides.
Brian decided that was a good time to accost Sebastian Telfair. Rather than just offer a high five and passing word of praise, Brian took the extra step of “bringing it in for the real thing,” and told Bassy that he liked him WAY MORE than Jonny Flynn. The implication was clearer than Brian’s speech delivery: Flynn was awful, and a great deal of Wolves fans preferred to see Telfair at point guard. (By the way, Sign Number 298,278,397,293 that your favorite team is Lottobound is when you like Bassy Telfair WAY MORE than the guy playing ahead of him and feel obliged to loudly proclaim as much publicly.)
As Brian delivered those Guiness-laced words, a tall young man in the group took issue. It was Michael Beasley. Mike was upset.
It would be an exaggeration to call this a confrontation. After all, Beasley didn’t mush Brian. But Beas made it known that ripping his teammate – even Flynn – was not cool.* So we walked on.
More mushin’ for the pushin’ at 0:15.
I’ve always been intrigued by Michael Beasley as a basketball player.
The incident on the street made me respect him as a teammate, and, to a lesser degree (and if only for a fleeting moment) as a person.
There were a half-dozen other NBA players there. All were within earshot. Only one stood up to the dipshit comment made by the drunk fan.
Players — especially teammates — are a fraternity. They should protect each other.
This was a harmless situation, but Beas was acting on principle – almost on instinct. He’s loyal.
Let’s recall another example: Remember when Kevin Love and Danny Granger got into it at Target Center? Do you remember who looked like he was *actually* going to hurt someone, if not held back? That guy was Mike Beasley. He was defending the guy who stood between him and a spot in the Wolves starting lineup.
It’s often said that if no one likes Mike Beasley as a player, everyone loves him as a person, despite the flaws. When he’s not goofing around for a team video skit, he’s sticking up for Jonny Flynn. He probably rescues cats that are stuck in trees. He seems like a good dude.
Which makes this afternoon’s headline, and Beasley’s growing list of career hiccups, that much more disappointing.
Ben Golliver goes through most of them:
This is the third time during Beasley’s tenure in Phoenix that he has found himself in hot water. In May, it was reported that Beasley was under investigation for an alleged sexual assault. (Beasley has not been charged but the case is still open, according to the Arizona Republic.) In February, news broke that Beasley was cited on Jan. 25 for multiple driving violations for driving 71 mph in a 45-mph zone at 1:10 a.m. in a Mercedes that did not have a license plate. Beasley was driving on a suspended license and a loaded gun was found in the vehicle. Suns management did not discipline Beasley after the incident.
It has been a long and rocky road since Beasley was the No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft after earning Big 12 Player of the Year honors during his one season at Kansas State. Before playing his first game for the Heat, Beasley was fined $50,000 for his role in a marijuana-related incident at the Rookie Transition Program. He spent time in a substance abuse treatment center in 2009 before the Heat traded him to the Timberwolves after just two seasons.
Upon acquiring Beasley, then Timberwolves president David Kahn called him ”a very young and immature kid who smoked too much marijuana” before he arrived in Minnesota. Beasley was later pulled over for speeding and cited for marijuana possession by Minnesota police during the 2011 lockout. He also shoved a fan in the face during a lockout exhibition game in New York and sued his former AAU coach, alleging that he had received improper benefits during his one season at Kansas State.
This is not a post where I get on my high horse and judge Beasley’s off-court behavior. If you haven’t noticed by now, that’s basically the opposite of what this blog is about. But it’s difficult not to link the off-court problems to the on-court ones, especially when you consider trends like this one: according to John Hollinger’s catch-all “Player Efficiency Rating,” metric, Beasley has gotten worse at basketball in every single one of his professional seasons. For those scoring at home, that’s five and counting. Beas continues to get less accurate as a shooter, less active as a rebounder, less likely to draw a foul, and more likely to turn the ball over. His defense? Let’s not go there. It sucks.
Supercool Mike had one of the finest freshman seasons in college basketball history. He scored an efficient 26 points per game and pulled down a dozen boards. The statistically inclined would’ve drafted him ahead of Derrick Rose, who already has a league MVP under his belt. The one red flag with Beasley is that he was a bit of a 3/4 tweener. But that also describes some incredible players, including LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. On basketball alone, Mike Beasley should be doing much better than he is.
In a January interview for Grantland, Zach Lowe asked [then] Suns coach Alvin Gentry about Beas:
ZL: What does Michael Beasley have to do to be a good NBA player?
AG: It’s all a process with him. There are just a lot of things — some on-court stuff, some off-court stuff. He’s had a great attitude. It’s just one of those situations where he has to continue to work at it, to continue to explore what does he have to do to be successful — not just on the court, but off the court. He’ll continue to work at it. He’s had a great attitude.
ZL: I think that would surprise fans, only because of the clichés about him.
AG: See, if you don’t know him, you would say that. But he’s had a great attitude. And I have to take some of the blame for everything with him. I put a label on him before he even got here — that he was going to be our go-to guy, a guy that’s going to do this and do that. And that’s unfair to him — [saying that] without going through training camp and understanding what he might be for our team. So a bit of all this has to be my responsibility. It was predetermined what he was gonna be before we even hit camp.
ZL: It can mean almost anything when coaches point to “off-court” problems. Can you elaborate at all?
AG: I can’t elaborate on it. I think Michael has a good idea, and most of us have a good idea of some areas he has to work on. But we keep that in-house.
It’s quite possible that Gentry was referring to marijuana use. Unlike David Kahn, most teams keep that kind of thing “in-house.” In fact, I’m pretty sure the CBA requires it. (Hence the 50 large the league fined the Wolves for Kahn’s explicit reference to Mike and MJ.)
Whatever is causing The Beasley Regression, I hope it ends. Basketball should *be easy* for this guy. (Hence the nickname. See what I did there? Did you?)
Beasley is tall, fast, agile, and has one of the prettiest dribble jumpers in the league. Watching him fail doesn’t make sense and I don’t like it and I want it to stop.
It isn’t easy to make sense of Michael Beasley’s downslide. He’s young, he hasn’t battled injuries, and he’s been in a variety of situations in which he had an opportunity to carve out a productive niche. But he hasn’t.
I don’t need to know–or even care, really–what caused all this. I just hope it reverses itself, so Beasley’s career can finally begin.
*For what it’s worth: Telfair smiled and clearly appreciated the remark.