If you’ve been surprised this season to see Michael Beasley averaging 21.8 points per game this year in his first season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, then you’re probably not alone. Beasley was seen as a bit of a wild card in Miami for his first two years in the NBA, but he’s a changed man now with the Wolves.
His coach isn’t surprised.
“I’ve never judged people or players by anything that’s gone on in the past,” Kurt Rambis said Monday night before his Wolves took on the Celtics. “It’s about how we deal with them and how they deal with us, and he’s been nothing but exceptional — on the court, his work ethic, his personality, in the locker room. He just has a zest for life, he loves basketball, and he loves being in that locker room with his team. He’s been absolutely exceptional.”
Beasley was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft, but he spent his two seasons with the Heat overshadowed by Dwyane Wade on the court, and questions began to arise about his character off it. Speculation negatively involved Beasley’s overuse of marijuana, his history of lying about it and even the potential of suicide attempts, when the young forward checked into a Houston rehab center in the summer of 2009.
Beasley got a fresh start on July 12, shortly after LeBron James‘ “Decision,” when the Heat shipped him to Minnesota to clear out salary cap space for James and Chris Bosh. Beasley’s now on a young team in the Twin Cities where he can be a positive influence in the locker room and a big difference-maker on the court as well.
“I think he’s made improvements in all areas,” Rambis said. “We made it really difficult on Michael because we have specific duties that all our position players are responsible for. One time he’s playing the three spot, a wing position, and the next several minutes he’s playing a bigger position, the four spot. They have different duties and responsibilities, both offensively and defensively, so he’s constantly got to be changing what he’s doing out there on the floor. That’s hard to do, but I think he’s made tremendous strides.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who saw plenty of Beasley last spring when the C’s took on the Heat in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, has always liked what he’s seen. To him, Beasley’s emergence in Minnesota is no surprise.
“I’ve been a big believer in him,” Rivers said. “I just think he can score. I said it two years ago — I thought one day he may lead the league in scoring. He just really knows how to score the ball. He has Carmelo [Anthony‘s] ability to score inside of him. And he’s a matchup problem every night — he’s tough for threes to guard because of his size, and he’s too big for fours. Quickness and shot at that size, that pretty much makes him tough to guard.”
“He’s been our go-to guy,” Rambis added. “He’s someone who can create his own shot, and we’re also working with him on being able to distribute the basketball. That’s a new situation for him, a learning experience for him, and he’s gotten better at that too. He’s in my mind just at the beginning stages of where he could possibly go as a ballplayer.”
Now that Michael Beasely has revitalized his image, he can prove to the NBA he’s worth the hype and a dominant presence on the basketball court.