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.
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