NBA PM: Michael Beasley’s Last Stand?
Phoenix Suns forward Michael Beasley has always been one of those players who marches to the beat of his own drum. There’s never been any question that he can play basketball and score with the best of them, but after being discarded by the Miami HEAT and the Minnesota Timberwolves, he has a different look in his eye. Gone is the enormous bag of pregame candy, as well as the loud and silly pregame routine. As Michael Beasley sat in his locker quietly preparing for a recent preseason game, he seemed downright introspective.
“The ability to move on,” Beasley told HOOPSWORLD of his takeaway message from his previous two stops. “It’s as simple as that. It’s a situation that didn’t work out for me personally. You got to hold your head up and know that the best situation is out there for you.”
As our own Steve Kyler noted yesterday, there was hardly a clamor to sign Beasley when he hit free agency. For all of his ability on the court, many teams had reservations about Beasley’s persona and his ability to follow a game plan. Still, Beasley doesn’t feel he has to prove anything to anyone.
“No, not at all,” said Beasley. “I’m playing for myself, my livelihood and my kids. As far as what the world thinks, whether good or bad, was never a concern for me.”
The game plan is pretty simple in Phoenix, with Alvin Gentry looking to push the pace at all costs. That could help Beasley, who was given some straightforward instructions from his new coaching staff.
“Just to be aggressive,” said Beasley. “To play basketball like I know how to and basically do everything that the team needs.”
“With Michael, we’re asking a lot from him,” said Gentry. “The teams that he’s been with, obviously, he’s had some bright spots. He’s averaged 19 points in this league, you’ve got to be a pretty good player to do that. So I think with him what we’re trying to search and find is the consistency of doing that night in and night out.”
Of course, point guard play has been central to Gentry’s system, and Steve Nash is no longer there to lead the way. In his place is former Suns point guard Goran Dragic, who could be the Suns’ next star, and Beasley has a great deal of confidence in his new floor general.
“Goran is a special player,” said Beasley. “I won’t compare him to Steve Nash. He does some things better than Steve Nash and some things worse, but overall he is a good point guard. He’s got a lot to learn just like we all do, but as long as he’s aggressive, his shots open up, our shots open up. It’s easy, if we’re all aggressive. We sort of have a kill mentality. The game should be easy and fun.”
All in all, the open style of play will suit Michael Beasley, who also sees it as an advantage for his new teammates.
“Yeah, but not just for me,” said Beasley. “We got a lot of guys that can score the ball. It’s really an open offense, you got an open shot, take it. For me personally, yeah, it’s a great system for me, but also for everyone else on the team.”
Not many pundits are picking the Phoenix Suns as a playoff team this season, and that’s understandable. There are a ton of new pieces, some of which have yet to find success in the NBA, and with Steve Nash and Grant Hill gone, there is a need for new leaders to step up. Still, the Suns also have guys like Beasley, who are out to prove they belong in the NBA. With that kind of motivation, you never know what can happen.
The Next Coach Carter?
Anthony Carter has been through his share of ups and downs in Denver. He lived through Melo Mania, when the world seemed perched on the edge of its proverbial seat waiting to see where and when Carmelo Anthony would be traded. He lived through the aftermath, with a ton of new players arriving midseason and trying to find their roles in Denver. Now he’s as excited as anyone to see what this new group of players can do following a full training camp and preseason under head coach George Karl.
“Actually, I feel great about this team,” Carter tells HOOPSWORLD. “They’ve just got to work hard. They come to practice and they don’t complain. George is getting across the way he wants to play, and the way he wants them to play, and it’s just amazing the way these guys don’t complain. I’ve never seen a group of guys where someone wants to sit out on different teams and stuff, but these guys, everybody wants to practice, everybody wants to be on the court. So I think there’s only an upside.”
The fact that the Nuggets came together so quickly last season, despite the lockout, culminating in a solid postseason showing against the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t surprise Carter at all.
“No, actually, because George and the coaching staff is a great coaching staff,” said Carter. “When you’ve got somebody who has been coaching that long, he knows how to get things across to players and knows how to get players to play their role, so I’m not surprised because we still got Ty Lawson, still got Andre Miller, two great point guards, and once you’ve got them as your leaders, the rest should follow.”
George Karl famously said that he doesn’t think a team needs a superstar to contend, and Carter, who spent time playing with Anthony and Allen Iverson when they were together in Denver, takes it one step further.
“I don’t think a team needs a superstar, so long as you go out, play hard, and win games,” Carter explained. “It doesn’t even matter. I think it works out even better because you can hold everybody accountable for their job when you don’t have a superstar because some superstars get away with a lot of stuff. They don’t have to practice, and then they get to sit out. In George’s situation, he makes everybody practice. It starts with Ty (Lawson) and Andre (Miller). He gives Andre a little bit because he’s older, but Ty’s the leader, so he makes him play, and doesn’t give him any games off. When you have someone like that, you don’t need a superstar.”
Though the Nuggets don’t have a superstar in the middle of their team, they do have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA. Sometimes that can cause problems, as players sometimes worry about playing time and touches and get distracted from the bigger team goals. Carter doesn’t believe that will be an issue in Denver.
“No, I don’t think so, not with the guys that are here,” said Carter. “These guys know everybody can’t play, but they’ve got to be ready to play when something happens to somebody, or that person doesn’t have it going. You’ve just got to stay in shape, and once you know you got so many guys and you have big ol’ depth, you sure work harder with it because these guys work hard when they’re not getting minutes, when they know they weren’t playing in the pre-season, like tonight someone was out there doing sprints and stuff, man, and I just think that’s going to be the key for them going into the season, just staying ready.”
Carter may not get much playing time this season if the other point guards on the team are healthy, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be filling a valuable role on the squad.
“I just tell them don’t take nothing for granted,” said Carter of his mentoring responsibility. “This is not a given. You have to earn it. I told them, there’s a lot of guys that had way more talent than me, but they didn’t come in and work hard, they took it for granted, and you know, they’ve been out of the league for six, seven years, and I’m still here in my thirteenth year, so if you come to practice, come to work hard, and don’t just come in to just walk through or be there just because you have to be there. So a lot of them listen to me, and come to me when they’re frustrated, when the coaches are getting on them, and I just try to keep them calm and tell them they’re not going to get anywhere if they’re barking back at the coaches. You have to go out and listen and play the game.”
Sounding almost like a coach himself, Carter admits his playing days may be nearing an end, and he already has an idea what his next career path might be.
“Me and George have talking about me being an assistant coach,” said Carter. “They actually offered it to me about three weeks ago. Me coming on board as an assistant coach, but I told them, “Thanks, but I feel I have another year in me.” They said when I’m done, they’re going to have a spot for me, somewhere in the front office, or as a coach, or a players’ coach, or something like that, so I’m just looking forward to it, and ready to make the transition after this year.”
For now he’ll continue to push his teammates in practice, filling the role of vocal leader and mentor when he’s not on the court. A team like Denver, with so many new faces and young, developing talents, can certainly use everything Carter brings to the table.
Kenyon Martin and the Mavericks?
For several days we have been awaiting what seemed to be the inevitable news that Dallas Mavericks All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki will have to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his swelling right knee. Today the team issued the following statement:
The Dallas Mavericks announced today that Dirk Nowitzki underwent arthroscopic surgery to his right knee. The surgery was performed at Texas Sports Medicine by team orthopedic surgeon T.O. Souryal. Nowitzki is expected to resume on-court activities within approximately 6 weeks. Nowitzki has missed the last three preseason games with right knee effusion. His lone preseason appearance took place in Berlin on Oct. 6 when Nowitzki scored 8 points in 34 minutes of action.
If Nowitzki does, indeed, miss the first six weeks of the season it would mean the Mavericks would play their first 16 games without him, and then probably have to ease him into the next 10 or so as he gets back up to full speed. Nowitzki himself is much more optimistic about the time frame, citing his history of quick recoveries from injuries over the course of his career. Still, the Mavericks are going to start the season without him, and it’s going to be quite a test for a team that didn’t bring back much else from its previous core group.
Elton Brand will now likely become the team’s starting power forward, a role he has filled in preseason. Brand is still a capable scorer and defender, but he’s a far cry from Nowitzki. If the Mavericks are going to survive in the ever-tightening Western Conference they’re going to need more help than just Brand can provide. It’s going to take stellar play from guys like O.J. Mayo, who has been brilliant at times in preseason, Darren Collison and Chris Kaman. Shawn Marion will likely play more four now to help fill the gap, and the Mavericks might even need to look to free agency to shore up the front line.
The best power forward who is still looking for a home for the 2012-13 season is Kenyon Martin, who last played for the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s had a number of offers, but none for more than the veteran’s minimum, which he has been unwilling to accept. Martin has had his differences with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in the past, but if they could set aside those differences he might be just the person to step in and help the Mavericks get by without Nowitzki.
He would also make them that much tougher once Nowitzki returns.
Cuban told HOOPSWORLD via email this afternoon that he’s not overly concerned about Nowitzki being out. They signed Brand with the idea being that Nowitzki would get a break. “This is just a longer break than we expected,” wrote the Mavericks’ owner.
That being said, if the Mavericks struggle early, it will be interesting to see if Martin’s name surfaces.
HOOPSWORLD Season Previews
The 2012-13 NBA season is rapidly approaching and there are plenty of early storylines emerging.
Can the Miami HEAT repeat their championship quest from last season? Is this the final championship run for the aging Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs? Will Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks finally put all of their talent together and join the league’s elite? Can the new-look Los Angeles Lakers, now boasting Dwight Howard and Steve Nash unseat the Oklahoma City Thunder as Western Conference champions? Is this the year the Minnesota Timberwolves reach the playoffs behind All-Star Kevin Love? Likewise, the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors are poised to make playoff runs of their own, but can they seal the deal? Are the Dallas Mavericks toast, or will their new group of hungry veterans surprise us all?
The HOOPSWORLD team has these questions and more all covered and you can find season previews for all 30 NBA teams by following this LINK.
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