We knew it was coming; it was only a matter of time. The Phoenix Suns announced Tuesday that they reached a "termination agreement" with Michael Beasley, ending the 24-year-old forward's time in Arizona after just one disappointing season. The official announcement came shortly after ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that the team planned to part ways with the talented but troubled Beasley "by the end of this week." Apparently, Phoenix's front office decided there wasn't much sense in waiting.
After reaching the termination agreement, the team issued a terse and none-too-flattering statement on the transaction:
“The Suns were devoted to Michael Beasley’s success in Phoenix,” said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby. “However, it is essential that we demand the highest standards of personal and professional conduct as we develop a championship culture. Today’s action reflects our commitment to those standards. The timing and nature of this, and all of our transactions, are based on the judgment of our Basketball leadership as to how best to achieve our singular goal of rebuilding an elite team.”
“We have high standards for all of our players,” said Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough. “We expect them to represent the team and the community in a positive manner both on and off the court.”
Evidently, Babby, McDonough and the rest of the Suns' brass didn't view being arrested for marijuana possession (sort of a running theme for Beasley), cited for driving 26 miles per hour over the speed limit with a suspended license, without license plates and with a loaded gun, and investigated for sexual assault as meeting the "highest standards of personal and professional conduct." Babby referenced the Aug. 6 marijuana arrest in a brief chat with Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic:
“Obviously, we’re disappointed [Beasley] didn’t have more success here,” Babby said. “We went into the relationship with our eyes open and understood the calculated risks we were taking. Those risks turned out to work against us. There comes a point that the maintenance of our highest standards was paramount.” [...]
“The most recent legal issue intervened and that was the end of it,” Babby said.
The repeated off-court transgressions, combined with less-than-compelling on-court stuff like brazenly chucking terrible air-balls, openly admitting to tuning out everyone including his coaches, shooting just 40.5 percent from the floor and 31.3 percent from 3-point range, and playing scarcely a lick of defense — made Beasley persona non grata in Phoenix. After wearing out his welcomes with the Miami Heat, who drafted him No. 2 overall in 2008, and the Minnesota Timberwolves, who traded a pair of second-round picks and cash for him in 2010, Beasley again became a mind-numbingly inefficient millstone whom his team's front office and fans would rather quietly jettison than hope to reach, even if it meant paying him to go away. So Phoenix will pay Beasley to go away, albeit not as much as they'd previously been slated to pay to keep him around.
Beasley had two years remaining on the three-year, $18 million deal he was given by former Suns GM Lance Blanks last July. (This is just one of many reasons Blanks is the "former Suns GM," replaced this summer by bright young thing McDonough.) The Suns owed Beasley $9 million for those two seasons — $6 million guaranteed for 2013-14, and $3 million guaranteed for '14-'15, according to ShamSports.com's salary database — but will pay him $7 million, according to Coro and John Gambadoro of Sports 620 KTAR in Phoenix, with $4.67 million coming this year and the remaining $2.33 million being spread over the next three years.
Phoenix will absorb the bulk of Beasley's cap hit this season, a bitter pill made easier to swallow by last week's cap-space-clearing trade of expensive veteran Caron Butler to the Milwaukee Bucks; as Richard Parker notes at Bright Side of the Sun, the nature of the buyout helps, too, reducing the Suns' payroll and salary-cap commitments in each of the next two seasons. The process of tearing down a depressingly bland and irrelevant edifice in Phoenix continues apace.
Whether, and where, Beasley's career will similarly continue remains unclear. On one hand, it only takes one general manager to remember the gifts Beasley showed in his lone season at Kansas State — when he averaged a double-double as a freshman and sparked legitimate debate as to whether he or Derrick Rose should be the top overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft — and convince himself that, still months removed from his 25th birthday, the talent's compelling enough to merit another shot at extraction, because maybe the fourth team in six seasons will be the charm. On the other, there are fewer GMs likely to take a chance, even at a veteran's minimum salary, on such a long-shot bet. At this point, sad as it may be for those who thought Beasley had a chance to be an All-Star in the league, it seems more likely that we're closer to the end of Beasley's NBA career than the beginning of it.
Which, y'know, might be just fine by him:
He's continually caught with drugs, but avoids jail AND gets paid. What world do we live in where Michael Beasley is some sort of failure?
— Myles Brown (@mdotbrown) September 3, 2013
Michael Beasley is 24, extremely well-paid, and can now smoke a ton of weed with no repercussions. What's the problem again? — Marcel Mutoni (@marcel_mutoni) September 3, 2013
It might not be an über-achiever's way of viewing things, but given the way Beasley's pro career has unfolded, hey, maybe they've got a point.