Stability hasn’t been there for the Phoenix Suns. The franchise has essentially required turnstyles just to keep their coaching and front office staffs in relative order. And for Michael Beasley, the combination of that and his personal instability caused the proverbial excrement to hit the fan during the 2012-13 season.
That was all innocent in comparison to the reports that a sexual-assault claim was filed against the Suns forward for a January incident. While that could be simply a case of an athlete being targeted for his fame, nothing can be good for Beasley’s image. He already had a legal issue with a January traffic stop for speeding that involved an expired license and a loaded firearm.
Beasley didn’t handle the season well on the court, either.
His three-year, $18 million contract and career-worst numbers put the pressure on. Alvin Gentry’s attempt to mold him into a playmaker and ballhandler didn’t force him to focus, neither did a benching and neither did Lindsey Hunter’s persistence in holding him accountable.
No matter the case, Beasley was consistently inconsistent. He never for more than a few games in a row flashed his talent that defined his success in high school and college. For that, the Phoenix brass has a difficult situation on its hands — it’ll be hard for the franchise to wash this off of them.
The numbers don’t make the offseason signing that made then-general manager Lance Blanks giddy with excitement look like a good one.
Of the Suns who played at least 15 percent of the available minutes, Beasley had the third-worst on-court plus-minus of -10.4, behind only Kendall Marshall’s -12.7 and Wesley Johnson’s -11.6. Beasley recorded the second-best off-the-court plus-minus on the team of -3.9, only trailing Markieff Morris’ -3.8, according to 82games.com. Beasley’s PER has fallen in every one of his five NBA seasons, and his effective field goal percentage (taking into account the value of a three-point shot) and true shooting percentage (which also accounts for threes and free throws) each hit all-time lows. According to HoopData.com and Basketball-Reference.com, his true shooting percentage was more than 4 percent lower than it has been in any of Beasley’s first four seasons.
Beasley was dead last in the NBA – 469th to be exact – in win shares with a figure of -1.5, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Whatever the statistics might show, none harbor the value of his lack of consistency. None can lend evidence to what’s going on in Beasley’s head.
It could be argued that Phoenix was playing Beasley out of position. His defensive drifting often hampered him, but it appeared to trend up and down along with his offensive confidence. Toward the end of the season, Beasley found himself in the midst of one such streak of confidence. For a seven-game stretch beginning in the second half of March, he shot at least 50 percent in all but one of his games, and that was one miss shy of a 5-for-10 game. The streak culminated in a fine defensive effort against Blake Griffin – the 13-point game was dubbed by Hunter as Beasley’s best all-around performance of the year.
“I said, ‘Man I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you and I’m mad at you at the same time, because you could’ve been doing this all along,’ ” Hunter said.
Turns out Hunter was checking in on Beasley. During practice, he would ask Beasley questions to keep him alert, similar to a school teacher cold-calling on a student to make sure they weren’t daydreaming during class.
“I’ll randomly just ask him, ‘What did a certain coach just say?’ just to keep him focused,” Hunter said. “And he’s like, ‘Coach, I’m not talking.’ I say, ‘I know. But you’re listening to somebody, you’re doing something.’ ”
That night, Beasley pulled out a 25-point performance on 17 shots in a loss to the Golden State Warriors. Afterward, the forward did as much as he could to go against Hunter’s claims that Beasley was listening.
“The more I listen to people, the more I got to think about,” Beasley said. “Sometimes it messed me up, trying to think about 1,000 things. Stop listening to people.
“Just everybody. From my friends, to family, to teammates, to coaches. Just everybody.”
Hunter laughed off the season-defining quotes.
The comments, perhaps overly-dramatic ones, put the spotlight back on Beasley. Two days later, just as the stories and the commentaries of Beasley’s recent success had been published, he went 1-for-11 from the floor in 15 minutes against the New Orleans Hornets. The interview sessions weren’t necessarily accurate of Beasley’s thought-processes – maybe just poorly worded – but if they were more than that it wasn’t a good sign. His first talk of shutting out the noise that apparently bothers him came not in April, but at media day.
“You just don’t deal with it,” Beasley said. “You listen to it, take what you need, leave what you don’t. Play basketball.”
Before the year, Beasley was adamant he had few individual goals. Winning was of the highest priority, and his role in that would be what is necessary. Gentry had talked Beasley into becoming a pick-and-roll ball handler, and Jared Dudley said the question was what could come of Beasley after the scoring. Neither the scoring nor the playmaking came easily for the troubled forward. What Beasley sees in himself outside of the generalized “doing what it takes to help the team” seems to be the issue.
Beasley will admit to having high-percentile talent, as has everyone else who has witnessed his rare games of being focused and on point.
But until he proves that the noise from the media, his off-court dealings and his on-court struggles isn’t impacting the simplicity he mentions in just playing ball, Beasley’s basketball upside looks more like a downside.
As of now, it’s too loud for Beasley to find success.