He was the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA's 2008 draft, his talent regarded highly enough that some questioned whether he should have actually been taken first ahead of Derrick Rose. Some 4½ years later, Michael Beasley understands the perception of him has changed.
"I know the public sees me as a monster," Beasley told Yahoo! Sports. "That is what the media paints me as. But I'm me, a monster to some, a nice guy to some, a great father to four, a son, a brother just like everybody. What the media thinks or perceives me as, is not my concern. I'm just doing what I got to do to, first, help the team, second, help myself.
"Five years in, I'm nowhere near where I thought or wanted myself to be. I don't have anyone to blame that on but myself. All I can do is look forward. On the court, off the court, I'm in a better space, better state of mind – the right track so to speak."
The Phoenix Suns can only hope. They signed Beasley to a three-year, $18 million contract in the summer, banking on the belief he's matured enough to provide a good return on their investment. Beasley has made headlines in his first four NBA seasons, but most often for his behavior away from the court.
Beasley was fined $50,000 by the NBA for being in a room where marijuana was found during the league's rookie symposium. Less than a year later, he entered a substance-abuse treatment center. The Miami Heat opted to trade him to the Minnesota Timberwolves after his second season to clear salary-cap room to help sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
Beasley blames himself for his troubles, but says he has matured.
"At the end of the day, it made me exactly who I am today," Beasley said. "I wouldn't try to change that for the world. There were a couple situations where I made bonehead decisions. Mistakes, trials and tribulations is really how I learn in life."
Beasley spent two seasons with the Timberwolves, averaging career lows of 11.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 23.1 minutes last season while primarily being used as a reserve. He said he was "five minutes way" from being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers last season, but the deal fell apart.
"If I was able to play, OK I'm excited," Beasley said. "But if I was going to the Lakers to sit on the bench with 10 minutes a game, like I was playing in Minnesota, then there was no point."
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Beasley enjoyed living in Minneapolis, where he was close to family and friends. But by the time the free-agent market opened in July, he had a strong feeling the T'wolves weren't too interested in bringing him back.
"It's just the vibes you get being there every day," Beasley said. "The same smiles you don't get as much."
Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Norm Nixon has tried to steer Beasley toward a more straight and narrow path. Beasley works out with Nixon in the offseason and often stays at his house.
"Norm means a lot, more than life can imagine," Beasley said. "Norm has taken over the role of being a father in my life. I have a father who I love, but my biological father is a more of a brother type, a friend. Norm has really kind of taken control of my life."
Said Nixon: "We battle about mistakes and different things. He's just like one of kids. He hides from me when he makes mistakes on and off the court. But I've really grown to like him over the last year and he is really like my son."
The Suns' interest in Beasley grew with a ringing endorsement from Nixon. Beasley was impressed when Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby, general manager Lance Blanks and head coach Alvin Gentry went to Nixon's home to meet him on the first morning of free agency. Two-and-a-half hours later, Beasley agreed to a contract with them.
"The guy came completely clean, and I thought the other thing that was great was he said he wanted to be a great player and 'I want somebody to coach me,' " Gentry said. "He's willing to do that.
"It's a process. Especially with me as a coach, you have to be patient. He's still a young player. He still has a lot to learn. He's a very, very naturally gifted basketball player and one day he will be a great player."
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Blanks has also taken a strong interest in helping Beasley. The two talk daily, but rarely about basketball. They have attended Arizona Diamondbacks and WNBA Phoenix Mercury games together. While Beasley said Heat president Pat Riley checked on him privately in regular office meetings, he considers this is the most personal attention he has received in his career.
"We talk in a way in which we haven't shied from his past," Blanks said. "His decisions haven't been the best, but his raw matter, the soul of clay of person he is, is very impressive. If nurtured right, and he's willing to do the work, he has a chance to be special, not only as a person, but in this league."
Beasley knows that if he can eliminate the drama around him, he also can once again change the perception people have of him.
"I'm finally in a good state of mind," he said. "Now I just got to get this thing on the court rolling."
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