Beasley Primed to Revitalize NBA Career?
In the midst of just his fifth NBA season, Michael Beasley – the second overall pick of the 2008 NBA Draft – has been on a roller coaster ride throughout his young career. Over the course of playing on three different teams in his five years as a professional, the 24-year-old is having his most trying season to date in 2012-13.
Averaging career-lows across the board, the fresh start Beasley was supposed to take advantage of in his first season with the Phoenix Suns hasn’t come to fruition as minutes have been scarce for most of the year. Despite possessing the size and skill worthy of a number two overall pick, Beasley found himself in former head coach Alvin Gentry’s doghouse early and couldn’t seem to get his head above water. Subsequently, Gentry was relieved of his duties as head coach just a few weeks ago and was replaced by Lindsey Hunter, who had been the team’s director of player development.
Working in Beasley’s favor is the fact that he and Hunter have had a quality relationship from the beginning and the first-time head coach believes in giving the talented but troubled Beasley another shot.
“I think the thing with Mike [Beasley] is that we have a great relationship,” Hunter said. “When I was director of player personnel, I really worked close with him and really developed a lot of trust there. I think he understands that I care more about the person than I do the basketball player. I stress to him if Mike the person gets himself together, then Mike the basketball player will be great. I think he really and truly understands that and he’s trying to change the things he can.”
In speaking with Beasley, the laid back and reserved forward believes the coaching change has not only helped the team, but will allow him to grow out of his miserable first half of the 2012-13 season.
“We’re just going along with the flow,” Beasley told HOOPSWORLD. “One thing I can tell you is that we’re definitely working harder, not to say we wasn’t working hard before, but it’s definitely more of a work ethic around the overall team. So that’s definitely a good thing. We definitely have a good relationship. If not anybody else, he definitely understands my work ethic.
“I definitely think I will benefit from the coaching change,” Beasley added.
Suns point guard Goran Dragic believes the coaching change has provided a huge spark and lit a fire under Beasley.
“The last few games, he has been good,” Dragic said of Beasley. “I think before he didn’t have an understanding with the coach [Gentry] so well and now with these changes he’s getting more confident with the roles and everything. Like I said, the last few games he has played great, so now he just have to find the consistency with his spot.”
Looking at Beasley’s body of work since the coaching change, there’s reason to believe Beasley is primed to turn it around this season. In five games since Hunter took over as the interim head coach in Phoenix, Beasley’s minutes have increased dramatically and so has his production. Culminating Wednesday night with a 27-point, six-rebound, five-steal outing in a 92-86 win against the Los Angeles Lakers, Beasley has erupted which begs the question as to why he struggled so mightily to start the year.
“I really couldn’t put my finger on that,” Hunter said. “But with me getting to know him and kind of understanding his world, I guess that gives me more of an understanding of how to help him. In the beginning, maybe everything was so new to him and so fresh that maybe he thought it would be easier than it was. Now he realizes this is a challenge and he has to fight, nothing is going to be given to him regardless and he’s really responding well now.”
Since Hunter took over at the helm for Phoenix, Beasley is averaging 18.2 points on over 53 percent shooting from the field – 57.1 percent from behind the arc – and grabbing 5.4 rebounds per contest. Not coincidentally, the Suns are 3-2 under Hunter with Beasley beginning to show signs of reaching his true NBA potential.
“Mike was the number two pick in the draft, that says a lot about his talent,” Hunter said. “If you can get a number two pick in the draft, at anytime, I think some people will take a chance on him. Now, we’re just trying to help work him towards his potential. I think he feels that, I think he feels that when I tell him, ‘Just go out and play, don’t worry about anything.’ I tell the team, ‘If you make a mistake, the worst thing you can do is drop and hang your head, not get back and try to make up for it, just play the game.’”
One key to Beasley’s resurgence has been Hunter’s penchant for tapping into what Beasley does best on the NBA floor: score baskets. Hunter has continued to harp on Beasley not to pass up open looks and, for the most part, it’s been working for the Suns.
“Yeah, definitely,” Beasley said as to whether Hunter has added confidence in him. “He understands how hard I work, he understands how much I want to be great and how much I want my team to be great. He believes in me.
“Even if I try to get my teammates involved, he’s so big on me shooting and not passing up shots so that’s definitely going to help me in the long run,” Beasley explained. “Especially going into next season. That’s what our team needs is for me to score the ball for us to even have a chance to win.”
Still, Beasley’s recent surge hasn’t come without its share of inconsistency. Even though Beasley has scored 19 or more points in three of the last five contests, the 6-foot-10, 235-pound forward has come up small in the other two. Making just 8 of 22 shots for a total of 20 points against the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks over the past week, it’s clear that consistency is still an issue for Beasley.
“That’s what he’s learning,” Hunter said, “I think before he was all over the place, but we’re kind of defining what you do and how you do it, putting his game into a box and now you play from here. Don’t think about going out and getting a triple-double. Go out and play the game, score the basketball, I think that’s his gift and if you do that, all the other things will fall into place.”
On a team in Phoenix that’s looking to see what it has in terms of which players can help to turn around this franchise over the next few seasons, closing out the 2013 strong is going to be crucial for Beasley. In what could be his last shot in the NBA if things don’t turn around, a revitalized and aggressive Beasley would go a long way to silencing his critics and ensuring a long, productive NBA career.