PHOENIX — Michael Beasley still looks at him like he’s crazy when he says it, but tonight provided ample evidence as to why Alvin Gentry wants Beasley to take about 18-20 shots for every 30 minutes of playing time.
Granted the last thing the Suns’ head coach wants is for Beasley to become a chucker, he just doesn’t want him to pass up any quality opportunities to score the basketball.
Even in Friday night’s preseason finale in which Beasley exploded for 29 points on 13-for-21 shooting in 33:36 of the Suns’ 88-72 victory, Gentry felt he left shots on the table.
“We’re going through that phase right now with Michael Beasley because he’s been on a team with Dwyane Wade,” Gentry said. “He hasn’t had the opportunity to shoot the basketball. I don’t think that he’s quite to the point where, ‘This is a shot, I’ll just shoot.’ I think he’ll get there. It’s just an adjustment that guys have to make. It’s probably a little bit different than anybody really expected.
“When you’re going well you’ve got to play a little bit selfish, and that’s the way most of the great players in this league are. We’ve got to get him in that mentality.”
On a night the rest of the team shot an ugly 34.8 percent, Beasley carried the offense by displaying a complete offensive game. He stroked three long balls in as many attempts, had his mid-range game working to full effect and went strong to the bucket as well. He confidently brought the ball upcourt after a few of his 10 rebounds, and he made it all look so easy.
To Beasley, the key to his performance all came down to being aggressive.
“I was just being aggressive,” he said. “Coach has been telling me all preseason just to be aggressive and be kind of selfish in taking my shots, and that’s what I was doing today. I was going out there with a mindset of a playmaker, but I was also taking what the defense was giving me.”
Added Goran Dragic, “[He was] aggressive, attacking the rim. He was amazing on offense. When he’s hot, we’re going to get a lot from him every game, and today he did a great job, he was attacking the rim, be aggressive, and we need that from him.”
The rap on Beasley has always been that he often forces bad shots. The Suns surely don’t want that, they just want it to be ingrained in his DNA to never pass up a good shot no matter how many consecutive times he’s attempted a bucket already.
Beasley almost can’t believe how much the team wants him to shoot, but it surely worked tonight as Beasley produced a game-high plus 24 in his 34 minutes as the Suns’ starters as a unit soundly beat the starting unit sans Iguodala and Gallinari that the Nuggets put out on the floor.
“I thought I was shooting, but every game they’re telling me I’ve got to shoot more, I’ve got to shoot more, I’ve got to shoot more,” Beasley said. “They’re not telling me to shoot every time I touch the ball, but if I have a shot every time I touch the ball they definitely don’t want me to pass up on it. It’s going to take some adjusting. I like it so far.”
It would be ridiculous to read too much into a strong preseason performance from a player like Beasley against a depleted opponent, but tonight he showed glimpses of the player the Suns hope he becomes on a more consistent basis. In fact, he was good enough after the game for Gentry to say “that’s the kind of effort we have to get from him night-in and night-out. That’s got to be our goal.”
The crazy part is that Beasley did not feel like he was even hot tonight. If this was a lukewarm outing, I’d like to see the guy when he’s sizzling, but perhaps if he’s always fully engaged as he was tonight he won’t always need to be piping hot to be a major contributor.
Beasley was good enough that it was easy to forget that Scola, Gortat and Dudley combined to shoot just 7-for-28 (25 percent), and the Suns won’t often blow out opponents when that’s the case.
Gentry did not forget that Denver scored 54 points in the paint as the Suns once again struggled with dribble penetration and yielding offensive rebounds. The Nuggets also collected 15 offensive caroms and won the rebounding battle by 13.
“That’s something obviously that is a concern,” Gentry said of Denver’s busy night in the paint. “It’s not all going to happen overnight, but I think our guys all have great attitudes. We’ll continue to work and get better.”
The Suns’ defense as a whole really stiffened up in the second half against a Nuggets team that torched them in a pair of exhibition contests last season. Phoenix yielded a mere 26 points on 26.2 percent shooting (1-for-7 from deep) in the third and fourth quarters to seal the victory while Beasley provided the punch on the other end.
Starting Wednesday the games will start for real after a 4-3 preseason slate, and if the Suns get this Beasley more nights than not then their free agency gamble on the talented forward will be well worth it.
“I thought the effort was there,” Gentry said. “We had some good moments, and we’re still in a situation where we’re trying to get better and grow as a team. That’s still going to take a little bit of time.”
- Jermaine O’Neal (left wrist sprain) and P.J. Tucker (eye procedure) missed the contest, allowing Markieff Morris the opportunity to play 22 minutes as the backup center. He scored eight points and grabbed four boards, while picking up just one foul. That pushed Luke Zeller into the backup power forward role, and Blanks’ favorite shooter hit 2-of-6 shots to score five points in 21 minutes while committing five fouls and struggling a bit on defense.
- Gentry was asked about whether Scola may be fatigued from his Olympic summer. Needless to say, that’s not a concern of the Suns’ head coach: “He’s the least of our worries, I don’t worry about him. When the lights come on he’ll be fine.”
- As you can see in the above video, Beasley wore a Detroit Tigers shirt out of the arena today, but don’t start thinking he’s a bandwagon fan or even any fan at all of Detroit. “I just like the shirt, I’m a National fan,” Beasley said. “I don’t like the Tigers at all, I just like the shirt, that’s it.”