Ease is the key for Michael Beasley

PHOENIX — It was the iconic “Be easy Mike Beasley” introduction in the late Adam Yauch’s “Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot” trailer that perfectly described a player overflowing with talent but unharnessed in behavior.

Ease is the best way to describe Beasley’s game, but it’s also led to a lingering question mark that’s resulted in a long wait for his talent to flourish.

The topic of immature high school player turned success story arose in a Sports Illustrated feature during Beasley’s freshman season at Kansas State, when he was on course to put up numbers comparable to Kevin Durant’s college numbers. Beasley moved to the pros, and after the Miami Heat gave up on him, the second-coming of the enigmatic forward was again written about during Beasley’s best year in the NBA with Minnesota.

The same story of Michael Beasley has been written over and over and over again,
but Beasley knows that results are the only thing to save him now. The Phoenix Suns are a new team, but he’s out of new beginnings.

“I wouldn’t say (Phoenix is a) new beginning, just a paved road,” he said. “It’s great here. The coaching staff, the front office. Everyone believes in me, not only as a player, but a person. With that kind of confidence and knowing that I have everybody behind me, pushing me to do better that’s all I really want.

“Honestly, I’m just looking forward to playing basketball,” he added. “I really don’t have any individual goals, just want to come out, play hard and have fun — put on a show for the fans. As far as individual goals, I don’t really have expectations for myself.”

The million-dollar question is whether Beasley can combine his laid-back attitude, adjusted offcourt lifestyle and skill to make the leap from an untapped talent into a force.

Ease again is the issue in Beasley’s development. No team has given him the green light in an offense thus far. Both the Heat and the Timberwolves attempted to ease him into bigger roles. With the Heat, who drafted him second overall in 2008, he was stuck in a strict system. With the Timberwolves, Beasley scored 19 points per game in 2010-11 but was still in a limited offense.

“I didn’t have as much freedom in Miami to shoot or dribble,” Beasley told SI.com in 2010. “I was pretty much told to run the offense and get out of the way. Here (in Minnesota), I don’t want to say I can shoot anytime I want, but I have a large variety of shots. The ball comes to me a lot more.”

With the Suns, a passed up shot will lead to a march to the bench. But Phoenix isn’t just hoping Beasley will become its first 20-point scorer since Amar’e Stoudemire left more than two years ago. In a way, the Suns’ vision for Beasley to shine involves increased expectations despite any acknowledgement of the pressure being there.

Their attitude is one that says Beasley’s rise will come if and when he’s ready. Giving him the keys to whichever door gets him there is the franchise’s biggest concern.

Beasley has already proven he has the ability to act as a high-post wing scorer. Jared Dudley said it reminds him of Carmelo Anthony, and with a deadly and effortless mid-range game, that’s not a far-fetched assessment.

But in a weird sort of way, the Suns subtly insist their expectations are greater. They want Beasley to feel comfortable doing everything. The talent is there, but it’s as if the Suns are helping push Beasley to inadvertently find it.

Asked during Media Day if he had discussions with Beasley about the forward’s role, Gentry got distracted.

“I’m just watching him over there,” Gentry said, laughing as he watched Beasley’s mouth overflow with popcorn during a photo shoot across the practice floor.

“He’s a very talented guy,” the coach said as he regained focus. “I talked to him along the lines of he might be a screen and roll player for us, he may be a ball handler in those situations. He’s very good at rebounding the basketball and pushing it the full court. I think it adds a presence to the transition offense that we haven’t had here in a while.”

Added Dudley: “The question with him is once he starts scoring, can he make other players better?”

Phoenix’s preseason opener against Sacramento on Wednesday showed hints at Beasley’s versatility. He found himself bringing the ball up the floor off rebounds, running pick-and-rolls and, of course, scoring with ease. In 24 minutes, he scored 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting. He led Phoenix with five assists, a sign that the playmaking ability Gentry wants to untap is already there.

Beasley even showed that versatility on defense, matching up with Tyreke Evans, one of the most physical scorers in the league and a guy speedy enough that he once manned the point guard spot for the Kings.

Of course, that’s a one-game sample. Beasley probably wouldn’t overplay it. He’s not the aggressive-natured competitor in the mold of Durant or Derrick Rose, both of whom were more equal than superior to Beasley on the high school circuit just six years ago.

So it’s no surprise that the ease of Beas isn’t setting any individual goals this season.

“Wins, wins, wins, wins — that’s it,” Beasley said. “Individually, I have the ability, I have the capability to be one of the best players in the NBA.”

He knows it. So does everyone else. Expectations have labeled Beasley as a bust, and his offcourt issues have, too. Simplicity, however, is what might make Beasley reach his potential. It’s not like the expectations or any negative labels have done anything for him.

“You just don’t deal with it,” Beasley said. “You listen to it, take what you need, leave what you don’t. Play basketball.”

If it becomes that simple for Michael Beasley, maybe reaching expectations will be just that — easy.

Tags: Michael Beasley

  • steve

    Sadly for the Suns, I think the only thing that is going to make Beasley morph into the all-star he could be is a personality change. He knows he’s every bit as talented as all but a few players in the NBA. Great. But it’s not enough for fans to just *know* it. They have to *see* it on the court. And Beasley, with his laid-back attitude, is simply not a type A. He’s not going to work every second of every day until he is the best he can possibly be. He’s not going to drive himself to be the best 3/4 combo forward who has ever played the game.

    By talent alone, he might get to an all-star level. But unless his psyche changes, he’s never going to realize his full potential.

    And I’m not necessarily saying he needs to change. As a fan of the Suns, I would love to see it. But he is who he is, and not every person can be Michael Jordan and just want to destroy anything that gets in their way. All I’m really hoping for is consistency and a lack of off-the-court issues. If Beasley decides he wants to own the NBA in the process, that’ll just be the cherry on top.

  • Scott

    @steve -

    It’s true that most leopards don’t change their spots. I think it is proper to be skeptical.

    But I was impressed that Beasley made 5 assists in the last game. Not only was he not holding onto the ball, he was actually helping someone else to score. I’m curious to see if this is a reflection of a changed outlook on his part, that he sees the game differently and his role differently, or if it was just a one-game aberration.

    Sometimes people need the right conditions to unlock their abilities. Boris Diaw is another leopard who frustratingly won’t change his spots, yet somehow in that one season (as we all remember) he unlocked an ability to score from center position. That ability came and went, as the psychological conditions that inspired him changed.

    Maybe Beasley is finding inspiring circumstances in Phoenix, with this system and team. Or maybe he’s just maturing. I don’t know. But we will find out this season.

  • Ty-Sun

    I get the impression from Beasley that he functions best in a system that isn’t highly structured, one that allows him to act and react instinctively rather than actually thinking first. If that’s the case then Phoenix should be a very good team for him. As for the assists, I’ve never gotten the impression that he was a selfish player. Perhaps in the right system every part of his game will start to flower. We can only hope for the best.

  • JBJ

    The first preseason game was a good start for Beasley. That game was one of the few where I saw him actually look to pass first then score. But the problem I have always had with Beasley is his consistency. If he brought it every night, he would be one of the best in the game. It remains to be seen if he can do this. I remember when Beasley said that he wanted to be an all around player. The other night was a good example of committing to that. Hopefully this wasn’t a fluke and there is more to come.

  • PennyAnd1


    Beasley is Beasley man. Hopefully his attitude will be positive here in Phoenix, but he has his style.

    As I look at the team a little closer more, and watched replay of the preseason opener. I have to say. I really love the young players we have. One thing I can say about this team? Better IQ. The players that I will certainly have a hard time getting adjusted with are those with little IQ like Brown & Gortat.

    The ball movement in the first game was better when I first observed it. Marshall was really Nash-like in setting his teammates up. This guys also seemed to gel well.

  • Gilberto

    Any way to know if they’re gonna have a black-out like last game?

  • PennyAnd1


    If there’s a black out, i’ll post a copy of the game in youtube.

  • Scott

    If Beasley can pass without turnovers, pass for assists, and score, rebound, and decently defend, and do so consistently, I’ll be pretty happy with that. I don’t require that he make himself an All-Star alpha player or go-to guy, and I’m not that concerned if he leaves some of his talent untapped.

    If he’s with the Suns, I just want him to be able to play within the system, which means doing all the normal basketball things … essentially be capable of doing what Dudley, Scola, Morris, and Dragic do. That would be awesome. :)

  • steve

    @scott- all in one package, of course. Haha.

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