When a young phenom stumbles, or goes all the way and completely falls from grace, the race is on amongst guys like us (media) to say “I saw it coming.” Whether it’s a young Mike Tyson‘s behavior around women or Todd Marinovich‘s father creating a recipe for his son’s rebellion, pundits like to say they saw the signs before anyone else. In the case of Michael Beasley, playing the “We saw it coming” card initially seemed like opportunistic hindsight, and yet, thinking back to our time spent with Beasley, everything that’s come to light this week makes sense. Dime has been down with Beasley since the summer before his senior year of high school, on through his pit stop at Kansas State, and through his rookie year with the Heat. All along, he’s always been just a different kind of kid, whether he was being alarmingly immature or comically laid-back. And if you know his backstory, it’s easy to see where some personal issues may surface. But for Beasley to end up checking into a rehab center and being subject to the John Lucas program, it still came as a surprise … (If you’re in the crowd thinking, “It’s just weed,” know that a lot of athletes smoke weed, and yet very few end up in the position Beasley is in. Even if it’s just weed, it’s emblematic of a larger red flag.) … One past encounter came to mind when the Beasley story broke. Austin Burton’s cover feature on Beasley in Dime #40 (April 2008) had this vignette of K-State assistant Dalonte Hill recalling an early-season meeting with his mentee:
The Wildcats were in the end stages of a 10-4 run through their nonconference schedule, and Beasley, their freshman superstar, was already the biggest story in college basketball, averaging 25 points and 12 rebounds per game.
“He asked did I think he’s ready for the NBA,” remembers Hill.
“I said, ‘Why would you ask me that now?’ He said, ‘I don’t think I’m ready.’ I told him, ‘I think you are, but why not wait until conference play?’ He said, ‘Oh, I’m not worried about the basketball part. It’s just being on my own and handling the business part.'”
… So far nobody outside of a select few know whether Beasley’s current problems are more psychological or drug-related, or if they’re equally in need of attention. It could be that he simply needs a leader in his life, and somebody like Lucas can get him on the right path before he turns into another J.R. Rider or Chris Washburn. This is reality, though: It shouldn’t came as that much of a shock. Everybody has somebody in their family or has a friend who’s dealt with drugs or mental health issues; we just hardly see it from such high-profile athletes, especially in this generation where we all came up on the cautionary tales of Len Bias and Michael Ray Richardson … If you’re running the Miami Heat, what is your next step with Beasley? Do you work through this with him, or look to cut ties ASAP? Ever since it became a possibility that Beasley could end up with the Heat come ’08 Draft time, everybody in this office has probably made a joke about what it would be like with Beasley living in Miami; but do you think that’s actually one of the problems? Would he be better off in a place like Indiana or Phoenix? … Meanwhile, Dirk Nowitzki is having his own problems. Cristal Taylor, the women he was engaged to and could have conned him for a bunch of money had she stuck around, was sentenced to five years in prison yesterday for a probation violation. The worst part for Dirk is that Taylor is reportedly pregnant with Dirk’s kid, and no guy’s life is easier when his baby’s mother is in jail. At the same time, he’s got teammates like Greg Buckner and Shawne Williams who won’t have much to do once the season starts, so that’s easy baby-sitting … Still no official word on Allen Iverson, and what happens to A.I. likely affects Ray Felton and Ramon Sessions. Between those two, Felton and Sessions, which would you rather go after in free agency? … The FIBA European Championships starts in two weeks, and Sasha Vujacic just got bounced from Team Slovenia. The Machine has been dealing with a knee injury and reportedly wasn’t playing his best. We loved the Eurobasket website report that described Vujacic as “arguably the most high-profile player” on Slovenia. Arguably next to who, Goran Dragic? Beno Udrih? Not that Sasha is a whole lot better than those guys, but playing for the Lakers, he’s automatically the most popular … With rain forcing the Elite 24 high school showcase indoors and off TV last weekend, we promised you a recap since the Dime crew was there. Aron Phillips has not just the Elite 24 words and pictures, but also the news and notes from the Nike Tournament of Champions, where the NYC playground top dog is crowned as the unofficial capper to the summer in the basketball Mecca … E-mail from Austin: “Playing ball at the park near my house, and this guy on another court had a Paul Pierce jersey. One time he drove and got his shot punched back in his face, and the guy who swatted him start yelling, “The Truth? You lyin’ dawg, you LYIN’!” … We’re out like The Machine …