Will The Real Mike Beasley Please Stand Up?


Michael Beasley is in trouble again

“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.



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12 responses to “Will The Real Mike Beasley Please Stand Up?

  1. Neumms

    One morning I ran into Kurt Rambis at the Starbucks across from the arena and said, “Hey Coach, Bassy’s looking pretty good lately.” He looked like he was mistakenly served a pee latte.

    But back to Beasy. I’ve seen allusions to ADHD–have you heard much about that kind of affliction and what psychiatric help he might be getting to cope?

  2. Dave A.

    Visually, Beasy is an interesting person. Look at his hair, artwork on skin and terrific smile. Plus, he is tall and athletic. Hard not to notice this man on the court or off. Visual interest has great appeal. But what’s between his ears? Obviously, he hasn’t figured things out. Hopefully, he will.
    Andy, thanks for the positive comments in a recent writeup about the Howard Pulley pro-am city league and Paris Kyles. Paris has what Beasy lacks — smarts when it comes to playing winning basketball. Two years in a row, Kyles’ team has won the league and two years in a row, Kyles is again a league MVP. Why he isn’t playing professionally someplace is hard to figure. He tends to be quiet and probably not a self-promoter. This league is terrific summer basketball entertainment. Officiating is good, negative behavior is not tolerated, and guys play hard. The state’s top high school, college, and pros are mixed together.

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  4. Brian J.

    So the Mike Beasley story finally gets some pub in the slow news season! Kind of threw your boy, faithful PDWolves follower Brian J, under the bus here though, no? You’ll allow me to revisit my recollection of this exchange, and, for the sake of the journalistic integrity of this blog, which I greatly admire, address a few…ahem…mischaracterizations.

    As I recall, Bassy seemed quite pleased to get some recognition for his solid game (he was hardly “accosted”) and was more than happy to dap me up. In fact all of the other T-Wolves present (and a couple of Pacers who were there too) were basically nodding in agreement. After all, I was only articulating, albeit in a moderately drunk, overly bro-ish fashion, what EVERY OTHER WOLVES FAN (and, I have to think, much of the team) already felt.

    J-Flynn, though he seemed like a nice guy/good dude, was an atrocious NBA basketball player. This had become painfully clear to every NBA observer at this point, except that Jonny was never mercifully relegated to the end of the bench because Rambis was under some sort of mandate to play him until the bitter end. And, it’s not like I was straight Jonny-bashing either. I believe I said something to the effect of “Great game Bassy. Man, we wish you’d get some more minutes over Jonny” – ultimately kind of an inane comment, since that is what everybody wished, but no great insult to J-Flynn. (And yes, clamoring for Bassy is a sad commentary on the state of the Wolves those days). And while Beas might have taken issue with my specific mention of Jonny, he should have recognized that since Bassy and Jonny both play point guard it was kind of an either/or proposition. Hell, Mike Beasley should have wanted to Bassy to play some more minutes over Jonny.

    Certainly there’s a line of player criticism that shouldn’t be crossed, especially when things turn personal, and I respect that Beas was ready to stand up for his guy. But a slight, GLARINGLY-TRUE dig at Jonny, buried in a complement to Bassy, hardly rises to the level of a “dipshit comment”. Which is maybe why none of the other Wolves seemed to blink an eye at my moderate affront to their teammate, but instead stood around in tacit agreement. (It had to be blindingly obvious to the rest of the team that SOMEBODY other than Jonny should have been running the point).

    Unfortunately, especially after this latest incident and amid rumors that the Suns might be done with him, Mike Beasley is the one who comes off looking like a dipshit. I don’t necessarily mean that in a pejorative sense (no, really!), but more as an expression of disbelief and disappointment at the waste of immense talent here. It’s hard to believe that of the three guys smoking pot at rookie orientation a few years back, Darrell Arthur and Almario Vernard are enjoying solid NBA careers (though good lord it pains me to admit that about Rio) while the guy who averaged 26 and 12 at Kansas State is teetering on the brink. I respect that Beas is a loyal guy, and by all accounts was a fun teammate to be around (any friend of Kevin Durant’s is a friend of mine), but it’s hugely disappointing that he hasn’t been able to get it together enough to establish a successful career.

    Doesn’t being a loyal (in a different sense) teammate also involve figuring out your defensive rotations, minimizing the ball-stopping, choosing more hard drives to the hole over long two’s, and just generally maintaining focus on the court? I enjoyed watching Beasley’s talent and style as much as anybody (well, ok, maybe not as much as PDWolves), but I have a hard time respecting him as a player/professional at this point. Obviously we can really only speculate on all the factors at play in Beas’s decline (Does he have some kind of attention-deficit issue? Has he always smoked too much weed? Has he been in situations that were a bad fit? Does he eat too many skittles?), but he has never seemed to take his job seriously enough to capitalize on a level of athleticism and talent of which most players can only dream. In the end maybe he’s just a goofball, and probably a likable one on a personal level. I guess I just wish he was more than that.

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