Phoenix Suns forward Michael Beasley has been one of the great disappointments of the contemporary NBA. When he entered the league as a member of the Miami Heat in 2008, he did so as a preternaturally talented scorer and rebounder with potential attitude problems. Beasley proved those fears well-founded almost immediately. After two seasons, he was shipped off to the Minnesota Timberwolves for next to nothing. As a free agent last summer, he had few suitors. He is simply not well-regarded by anyone, except maybe the guy who does the player ratings for "NBA 2K13."
Nevertheless, Beasley sometimes has the sort of excellent game (or a run of them) that displays the potential that made him such an intriguing draft prospect. On Friday, he scored 25 points on 12-of-17 shooting in a narrow loss to the Golden State Warriors. That performance came on the heels of several decent shooting performances, and it looked as if he might be finishing the season on a high note.
So, naturally, Beasley said he was playing better because he stopped listening to everyone, including his coaches. From Brett Pollakoff for ProBasketballTalk:
Speaking to reporters after the loss to the Warriors, Beasley credited his recent improved play to tuning out everyone around him, while listening only to himself.
“I’ve stopped listening to people, and I’m just doing what I know how to do,” Beasley said.
When asked what people specifically Beasley has stopped listening to, no one was excluded from his list — not even his coaches. “Everybody,” he said. “Just everybody, from my friends, to family, to teammates, to coaches.”
The “coaches” remark didn’t go unnoticed. Aren’t the coaches there to help?
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “But at the same time, I’m the one out there in the fire. The coach can tell me what he sees from a third party perspective, but I’m seeing it first hand. Once I set a screen and I roll, and another guy steps up … if he doesn’t step up, I’ve got a jump shot. Or, I can go around him, or I’ve got [a teammate] for a dunk. There’s so many things that I can do that only my instincts can tell me.”
These are pretty ridiculous statements, but there's at least some sense in them. While Beasley has struggled to find an NBA role, it often seems as if he's best suited to play as an instant-offense bench scorer who can come in the game and focus on little more than his own shots. Those players can't disregard the rest of the sport, but it's possible that Beasley is at his best when he can tune out the noise and focus on what he does well: throwing the ball at the basket and hoping it goes in.
Of course, it's also true that this method of scoring tends to be a little problematic. For proof, check out Beasley's line from Sunday night's 95-92 loss to the New Orleans Hornets: three points on 1-of-11 shooting from the floor in only 15 minutes.
Beasley's game log is riddled with these peaks and valleys, to the point where any series of adequate performances can be taken to stand for little more than a prelude to a bad game. This is his pattern — there is no such thing as a turned corner. A change in demeanor or approach doesn't necessarily exist in a cause-and-effect relationship with his shooting, because he's proven many times that he's capable of stellar games. The problem is that they're almost always followed up by terrible ones.
At this point in his career, Beasley will need much more than a few solid games to convince the basketball world that he's figured out a steady role or settled upon a mindset that will prove fruitful over the long run. He's been too inconsistent — the burden of proof is now sky-high. Until he shows more, we can safely assume that any stretch of games is little more than a small sample size.