Michael Beasley and the Phoenix Suns accept the past

Michael Beasley is introduced after signing with the Phoenix Suns on July 20.

PHOENIX — In a league where it’s imperative that players and teams fit like a hand in a glove, Michael Beasley and the Phoenix Suns are making sure that the forward’s troubled past is behind him.

The talent is hard to argue against. Beasley left Kansas State after one season, and through four years in the NBA has averaged 15.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game with the Miami Heat, who drafted him second overall in 2008, and more recently with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

But injuries, and most of all off-the-court troubles, have set back the career of the 6-foot-10 forward, who Suns general manager Lance Blanks called “one of the most talented basketball players in the league right now.”

Why do they think it’ll work this time around? Because Phoenix is putting all its efforts into making sure Beasley gets it right on the court and off it, something he’s struggled with having been arrested on a marijuana charge, among other transgressions.

Beasley is making sure he gets it right, too.

“I want to take my past head-on,” he said during an introductory press conference on Friday. “What happened, happened. It was part of a growing process. I’m still a young man, I’m still learning today. The mistakes I’ve made in the past are hopefully behind me.”

Much of the change stems from a year-and-a-half relationship with two-time NBA All-Star Norm Nixon, who has mentored Beasley.

“Sitting down, especially with Norm Nixon, I’ve really realized my potential,” said Beasley, who a year after Kevin Durant tore through his single NCAA season, bettered the two-time NBA scoring champ’s freshman numbers in both points (26.2 to 25.8) and rebounds (12.4 to 11.1).

“I’ve realized what I have to do,” Beasley said when questioned about his marijuana use. “And I’ve realized 10 minutes of feeling good isn’t really worth putting my life and my career and my legacy in jeopardy. I’m confident to say that part of my life, that part of my career, is over.”

Phoenix actually set out in the free agency period with Beasley atop its free agent list, according to Lon Babby. Beasley got a text from the Suns as soon as the clock struck midnight on the first of this month, he said.

Feeling wanted by Phoenix went a long way, and it was mutual for the Suns. Head coach Alvin Gentry and Blanks both cited Beasley’s personality as being infectious; through all the troubled times the forward has gone through, there’s no record of him causing troubles in the locker room or teammates disliking him.

“In truth, he’s a big kid,” Blanks said. “As some of us suffer from adult ADD, he does from child ADD. He’s all over the place. He’s texting and laughing and joking. He’s doing everything the youth is doing today. I’m excited to infuse that into our organization because it’s something new, it’s something fresh, it’s something different.”

A Phoenix committee, including Gentry, met with Beasley in Los Angeles to kick off the team’s free agent push. The $18 million, three-year contract offer came after the Suns became impressed with Beasley’s openness and self-awareness.

He didn’t point the finger at anyone but himself, Blanks said.

“The thing that I admire most about him is he was so transparent in everything that he said,” Gentry added. “He wants to be a great basketball player, he wants to be a complete basketball player. As a coach, that gets you excited.”

Beasley has been working out heavily during the summer. He wakes up at 6 a.m. and isn’t finished working out until 4. Track, yoga, ballet, two martial arts — Shotokan and Jujitsu — and basketball drills are part of the daily routine.

The Suns say they have faith in Beasley’s resurgence. They too were transparent in saying they’ll give him all the support needed to find the potential that he scratched in his best season of 2010-11, when he averaged 19.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists with Minnesota.

“We’re going to bring him in here, put our arms around him as an organization and as people,” Blanks said, “and pour everything we have into him to help him be the best basketball player and from where I sit, the best person that he can be.”

Beasley felt the love when the Suns met with him in Los Angeles, and he said he didn’t need to meet with another team to make his decision during free agency.

“It made me feel like I’m still one of the best basketball players,” Beasley said of the meeting, “even though in my heart I know I am. Just to have that confidence from someone else, just makes you feel good about yourself.”

“I really feel like they’re sincere in everything they say,” he added. “It makes me feel good that someone believes in me and is willing to give me a chance.”

Tags: Michael Beasley

  • Greg

    So far so good.

  • bk

    He can shoot as much as he wants. OJ Mayo is not here. He is primarily the first scoring option. I expect 25~30 PPG on him.

  • Khalid

    #1 passes to #0 and scores, will be a common sight.

  • Andy

    I’m afraid I just don’t see much reason to hope for a ton out of Beasley at the small forward position. I see articles saying things like “some say he’s bitter fit for the 4” – but it’s not just an odd opinion. It’s the way it’s been since he first played any significant numbers at the 4 in his career. It’s possible we have some fascinating line-up plan in place that’s going to get him the majority of his minutes at the 4, but it sure looks like we’re counting on him to play a lot of 3. I’ve mentioned before that he has really struggled defensively at the three. In full disclosure, at the time 82games did not yet have the 11/12 data up. Now that they do, we see that he was actually surprisingly effective (though in his smallest sample size since 08/09, when he played almost zero minutes at the three) when defending the three, holding his opponent to a really good 12.6 PER. I guess we can hope that he turned the corner there last year, but it still makes me very nervous that over the previous two years, the average SF was going for a PER over 19 on him – that means he was allowing his typical opponent a performance akin to the average last year’s Danny Granger/Paul Pierce performance. As others have fairly pointed out though, he’s not a defensive superstar at either position. He’s allowed a PER over 17 every year at the 4, which is turning his average opponent into like last year’s DeJuan Blair or Amare Stoudemire.

    With that in mind, it’s his offensive splits that worry me even more. He has never managed a PER of even the league-average 15 at the 3. In the 2010/2011 season referenced in this post, he had an eFG of .461 at the 3 compared to a .488 at the 4. .461 was the same eFG Grant Hill had last year, but Beasley isn’t bringing any of the defense. .488, meanwhile, matches last year’s David West and just trails last year’s Elton Brand at .494. Similarly, his 18.4 PER just tops both of those players’ marks last year. I’d be a lot more excited to get that sort of production at 6 million a year. The 13.1 PER and .461 eFG he posted at SF, even in his best year so far, looks more like Glen Davis’ last year. The same Big Baby whose remaining three years at 6.5 million the Magic are trying to force teams to take to get Dwight Howard back. Historically, there’s just not much precedent to hope for a dominant, or even above average, Beasley at the 3. I’m worried that, as it looks now, we may have set up our roster to get a lot less out of him than we should.

    2011/2012, SF: eFG .486, PER 11.8, opponent .437, 12.6
    2010/2011, SF eFG .461, PER 13.1, opponent .534, 19.3
    2009/2010, sf eFG .403, PER 14.9, opponent .504, 18.8

    2011/2012, PF: eFG .472, PER 11.7, opponent .556, 17.7
    2010/2011, PF: eFG .488, PER 18.4, opponent .520, 17.7
    2009/2010, PF: eFG .473, PER 18.9, opponent .476, 17.3

  • DBreezy

    I think it’s safe to say that none is consider Jared Dudley a great NBA athlete in general or in relation to Beasley in particular. I admit I was one who was skeptical of Duds transitioning to the 3 effectively let alone the 2, but he got it done. So it seems premature to say that Beasley can’t learn to defend the 3. People even think Kieff can play there and he’s nowhere near the athlete Beasley is IMO. He’s a frightening player if he scratches his offensive potential while playing 3. He’ll still likely need to be paired with a leader type star, but I hope he can be sort of a Chris Carter for the Suns.

  • PennyAnd1

    I think Beasley will improve in Phoenix, especially now that the focus is on him and not on Kevin Love, Derrick Williams or that new spaniard super guard. I thought Rick Adelman did not do much to get Beasley involve in any plays.

  • sun also rises

    I agree with you Pennyand1. Tho I do have to admit that I saw that picture of his number zero jersey and laughed.

  • PhoenixLights

    He’s got the talent, size and skillset to dominate at the 3. Defence usually comes later in a “defensively deficient” player when, by their own volition, they decide it’s an aspect of their game they want to improve. With Gentry coaching him, i think a little Dudley will rub off on him. Does Beasley have to be a 6’8″ Tony Allen defensively to thrive at the 3? Hell no. Thats not what he’s here for. He’s only 23 and still learning to play the 3, he can be molded into a great small forward and perhaps the next face of this franchise.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    The two injuries that he had were prolonged because he attempted to come back too soon.

    That is better than a player sitting out longer than expected–like Drew of the Diamondbacks.

  • shazam
  • Jeremy

    Seems crazy that a 6′ 10″ guy is gonna play the Small Forward spot. Why do we even have positions outside of the point guard? I mean we have 7 footers that refuse to be called centers, even though everything they do on the court says they are a center. That said, if Beasley has a decent jump shot and can make those cuts to the basket from the wing, like Grant and Marion used to, put him at the 3. If he has post moves and works better in PnR then Gortat is in trouble, he showed how soft he can be offensively at the end of the year last year and he won’t have Nash spoon feeding him now, and many people have talk about Gortat’s lack of post moves.

  • Evnerl

    Im a life long suns fan but even I think that this team is going to really suck, their #1 scoring options are Beasley and Gortat? They have 4 power forwards (gortat is really a power forward) 5 if you count warrick so they have a similar problem to when they had way to many wings the last 2 years. They still cannot land that elusive shooting guard. Too bad next years draft class is not very good.

  • Tim from British Columbia

    I think Beasley will improve and go back to his old form with the Suns because he wants to prove himself again and because Alvin Gentry and the coaching staff will help keep him focused on the game and turn him around.

  • Serek

    Just how obvious can it get? Kevin Love, the prince charming and the saviour of the realm, speaks of bad blood in the royal court! Who could be the cause? Why of course, the black sheep of the family, his treacherous step-brother, the bastard son of the late king. Everybody knows he wants the crown for himself, doesn’t get along with others, and also smokes weed!

    Honestly, maybe it’s true, we will know soon. But with that label, I’m not surprised that the change of scenery was required. Hopefully Beasley doesn’t waste the chance he’s getting with the Suns.

  • Andy

    But that’s the thing – his old form wasn’t very good at small forward. Not defensively, and not offensively. He had like 1300 minutes there in the aforementioned 10/11. He certainly didn’t lack for opportunity, he was taking almost 26 shots per 48 minutes when he played SF that year. In fact, every year he’s had a usage rate over 25%, even last year. While they definitely cut his total minutes in 11/12, he was at SF for over 400 minutes, and was still attempting 20 shots per 48 minutes. That’s about as many shots per 48 as Shannon Brown was getting last year. It’s certainly not a lack of experience at that position, or a lack of offensive opportunity at that position, he just hasn’t been able to convert those chances at the rate he needs to to be a valuable, let alone elite, offensive piece. It’s entirely possible he’s a totally different player with the Suns, but I’m leery of trusting scouting reports based on a year of college over four years of data against NBA level players. And, as shazam pointed out, it’s not like we’re getting a famously good locker room guy here. If we put him at SF and he’s a bust, I don’t know how excited he’s going to be going into our deep rotation at PF. Right now is sure seems like the best hope we have is that we’ve paid a guy 18 million dollars for the next three years to NOT play like he’s played so far in his career.

  • sun also rises

    @ serek – rofl. On the bright side of things at least Beasley and Scola can share stories about how much they apparently hate K-love now that they’re in the same locker room.

    “he held me down!”

    “he held me down and stomped on my head!”

  • steve

    If you are what you are by 20-24 years old, then hard work and study really has been lost in the world of professional athletics. Keep in mind we’re ta

  • steve

    *lking about a kid here, folks, not a grizzled vet.

  • http://jtshoopsblog.blogspot.com JT’s Hoops Blog

    I feel Beasley will have a breakout season, now that he is not held back by Kevin Love, Rick Adelman and the T-Wolves. Goran is also going to All Star too. Add a returning Marcin Gorat along with the waiver pickup of Luis Scola, don’t be surprised of seeing Phoenix in the playoffs again after a two year hiatus.

  • Serek

    Whichever way it goes, this will at least be interesting to watch. Either the team explodes into the playoffs, or flops and we scratch the bottom and get a good pick. With so much change in the lineup, I don’t think we can have the same result as this season.

  • Greg


    Gortat has lost his role as primary scoring option. Beasley, which you mentioned will be one of the primary options. Gortat is a center. he is not a power forward. he has been a center his entire career.

    Dont forget about Dragic. He may actually be the best scoring option we have. he doesnt need to replicate the distribution nash provided. Goran is a scorer, and a very good one. He could average 20 a game and it wouldnt surprise me at all. He is entering his prime age-wise and he has a full off-season to prepare knowing he is the guy in PHX.

    Scola also may bump Gortat down on the scoring options considering he is a post minded power forward, not the best part of Gortats game.

  • http://none.com Russell

    @Jeremy he is not 6″10. Everyone around the league knows he is at best 6″8 but probably 6″7.

  • oby

    mike beasly is a problem child yet very talented young player, but no matter what issues he went through in his past, that is forgivable when you have that kind of talent, i agree that the wolves didnt focus on him, it was all kevin love and ricky rubio in them making him shoot less and play less minutes when they draft derrick williams. its all about making you feel wanted and special and believing in your skills, when you feel like that someone believes in you, you respond and play better. and thats what beasly needs to get motivated and be himself again like he used to in kansas state. i believe mike beasly will have his best season coming and the suns will found a franchise player in him.

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