While Minnesota has been haunted since Kevin Garnett left for Boston, Michael Beasley has long been knocked as a shoot-first, look-for-teammates-later kind of player. This season, signs are showing that the T-Wolves’ rebirth is changing the way we think of Beasley, too.
The following interview can be seen in its entirety in the current issue, Dime #68.
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Hello, and thanks so much for coming, everyone, down to NBA Fan Central. Can everyone hear me? We’re really glad you took the time to be a part of our survey today, and sit anywhere you want on the left there.
Comfortable? Great. Well, we know you’re all excited about this, and so we’re going to kick it off with some discussion topics. Word association. Great â€“ and we want this to be informal so just yell out with your thoughts about the topic.
Oh boy. Sorry everyone, but can we all be a little more calm? We value your opinions, but maybe we should raise hands instead.
No, there is no physical NBA Fan Central where fans talk about the game’s most mercurial players. But whether it’s on the Internet or how we feel within our hearts, from diehards to seasonal drop-ins, discussions won’t range much wider than when talking about Minnesota’s fourth-year forward.
After bouncing around high schools and one year at Kansas State, the 6-8 scorer is one of the league’s undisputed best at finding his own shot. He averages 15.8 points in 28 minutes per game for his career, and in 2010-11 was 15th best in the league in scoring per minutes played, putting up 21.4 per 36 minutes played. To put it bluntly, he is an unapologetic scorer.
He’s a black hole with the ball. He’d only see an open teammate if he was in the hoop. He’s such a defensive liability an insurance policy wouldn’t cover him.
They might say that. But is it possible to see a player, who by his own admission, wants nothing more to do than a chance to ball and get better? We caught up with Beasley just weeks after he’d come back from a foot injury that cost him 11 games. With his rookie contract expiring at the end of the season, Beasley knows lost time now to show he’s improved his game and his troubles off the court means fewer chances later. He knows his weak spots, and knows his strengths â€“ and he’s working on one just as much as the other.
That leaves less of a desire to discuss the past. He’d rather talk about what’s ahead instead, and why shouldn’t he? Minnesota is no longer an NBA outpost up north. Kevin Love signed a four-year extension in January, and Ricky Rubio‘s laser passes put the ball in the hands of high-flying youngsters Derrick Williams and Wesley Johnson.
You can see why Beasley has taken to this year’s roster; the Timberwolves are what Beasley hopes to be. Fast, cool, up-and-coming, and able to change an impression with the swish of a jump shot.
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Dime: What’s the feeling like on the team this year?
Michael Beasley: It’s better inside the locker room because everyone’s so cool and everybody wants to see each other get better.
Dime: Is that a feeling that’s different than any other team you’ve been on?
MB: Yeah, but no. I say yeah because I’m actually a part of the rebuilding process. In Miami, when I got there, there were a couple players established and [Dwyane] Wade was a multi-time All-Star. Like you said, we started from the bottom and now we’re on the rise. Miami was one of those groups of veteran guys â€“ Udonis [Haslem], Jermaine (O’Neal), Wade â€“ but here we’ve all grown together. Our oldest players are Brad Miller (35) and Luke [Ridnour] who’s 30. We got four or five players on the team between 21 and 24. Us being so young it’s good, and we’re all the same age. We get to grow in life as well.
Dime: After you missed 11 games with the foot injury, you came off the bench, scoring 34 against Houston. Is that a role you’re okay with?
MB: I’m just trying to find my rhythm individually. As a team, we go with our camaraderie and we’re meshing well together. Individually, we have to find our rhythm.
Dime: On a team as young as Minnesota, you’re a bit of a veteran now. So how did the lockout affect your preparation?
MB: The only thing that’s different is the road trips and you only get a one-day trip. The fact we’re playing every day is cool for me because I love to play. At times, yeah it feels like summer. Right now I honestly still feel fresh. I sat for 11 games so that has a lot to do with it, but you work hard in the summertime conditioning-wise and you play every day to get in shape. We’re only six or seven weeks in.
Dime: Coach Rick Adelman likes to run, but do you still feel like you’re learning his system as a team?
MB: We’re still learning it. We’re not going to get it overnight. So far we’ve progressed and we definitely got better since the first day of training camp.
Dime: It has to be fun in that system, or any other, to play with guards like Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea.
MB: It’s different. I’ve always been a create-my-own-shot type of guy, but when you got guys like that with Ricky and Rid who have six-plus assists it’s kind of different. You don’t have to wait for them to do something but be ready. Early on I got caught off guard a couple times, but I’m trying to get some time with Rubio.
Dime: What about adjusting to the language or European style of play with Rubio?
MB: He makes the game easy. Only thing you have to focus on is getting ready. It might look like he’s going up for a shot, and next thing you know you’ve got the ball coming at you at 90 miles per hour. Only thing you gotta do is get ready.
Dime: How did you spend the time away with the foot injury?
MB: I watched the games and then analyzed them after the game on video, too. Mostly, where I can get my shots and where I can get my rebounds.
Dime: What about your game before the injury? Were you happy with its progression?
MB: There are a lot of areas I need to get better at. Ballhandling being one of them. There’s a lot I need to get better at, but I feel like I’ve gotten better since my rookie year.
Dime: While your game has changed a bit, specifically with less isolation this year, it seems like you’ve grown up off the court, too. Has that been the case?
MB: The past is in the past for me. I’ve grown to accept my faults and I’m never going there again. I’m just excited about the season and how good our young team could be.
Dime: Anything you really wanted to show people this season?
MB: Just to prove that I’m still me. I don’t want to prove to anyone, I just want to play basketball. I know I can make my teammates better. I’m just going to prove to my teammates and myself that I’m a winner and can make my team a winner.
Dime: You talked about the attitude of the team. Does being a young squad help because you’re all growing together?
MB: We’re definitely on the same page. We all want to win. No one in here is trying to get individual accolades. We’ve all got our eyes on the prize.
Dime: To you, how important was re-signing Kevin Love for the franchise?
MB: It means that the Timberwolves are serious in the sense that they want to be great. The T-Wolves are building. I got a chance to be a part of that.
Dime: You and Love go way back to AAU, so what is it like to play with him now?
MB: Me and Kevin was cool since we were 12 or 13. And that’s the same for a lot of guys. Wayne [Ellington], Wes, there’s a lot of guys in the NBA right now that grew up on the same circuit that me and Kevin grew up on. We kind of had no choice but to know each other and it did make it easier. The last time we played together was the McDonald’s All American team. When I came in (to Minnesota) the guys accepted me and we just kept rolling.
Dime: Throughout your basketball career you’ve always been on winning teams. Was losing the biggest adjustment after you arrived in Minnesota?
MB: The hardest problem was finishing games, and that process, 65 losses, that definitely was the hardest part of my career so far. I’ve been above .500 in every year of my life dating back to when I was nine. Dealing with a losing season was something I’ve never had to deal with.
Dime: As a restricted free agent this summer, do you want to re-sign with Minnesota?
MB: Definitely. I love the team and I love the city. Other than the snow it’s a great city with great fans. I’d love to spend my career here.