NEW YORK – The voice on the telephone had done his share of honest appraisal on Michael Beasley for Chicago, Miami and a list of curious NBA lottery teams, an earnest and independent basketball mind free of entanglements and agendas with the perplexing prospect out of Kansas State.
This man wishes it weren’t so, but he isn’t a believer that Beasley has it within him to push past his clown act and embrace the burden of professionalism.
“He’ll never grow up,” he said. “I doubt Michael is ever going to get it.”
Never mind Chicago and Miami, every team that’s done the most modest of gumshoe detective work on Beasley fears this is the case, too. Only, his talent and production was so prodigious at Kansas State, these teams wish it wasn’t true. Chicago and Miami have done the deepest of inspections, and they’ve come away fearing that Beasley is resigned to living life as the clown, the wise guy, an immature kid who’s never had boundaries in his life.
“He’s almost always talking, and almost never on time,” the respected basketball official said. “If he’s on time, he’ll be the last one to show up. And he’s always got a question. He’ll ask a lot of questions because he wants people to think he’s paying attention – because he’s not paying attention.
“He’s not a bad kid, but I do think he makes similar decisions as bad ones do. He isn’t malicious, or even disrespectful, but he makes the dumb decisions that bad people make.”
Beasley is the best talent in the draft. There isn’t a close second. Whatever people want to say about Memphis point guard Derrick Rose, he won’t win the honor of the No. 1 pick in Thursday night’s draft as much as Beasley will blow it. Beasley is a long, 6-foot-8½ , responsible for a surreal 26.2 points and 12.4 rebounds as a Kansas State freshman, and he still hasn’t made a convincing case to Chicago and Miami.
Rose is a Chicago kid, polite, determined and a leader that’ll take over this floundering franchise. For now, this is the safe pick for Bulls GM John Paxson. For now.
Beasley has done little to change minds in his meetings with the two teams. For everything his AAU coach and agent did to carefully control his college environment, his path to the pros, they’ve struggled to polish Beasley’s image. There were six high schools and relentlessly foolish stunts and an attitude of indifference and clownery everywhere but the basketball court. After months of probing him, Beasley was strangely amused by what the Bulls and Heat officials were most interested in discovering about him.
“They wanted to know if I’m crazy,” he said Wednesday at a mid-town hotel.
Beasley was laughing, but he wasn’t kidding. Heat president Pat Riley has gone to great lengths to create the impression that he’s resoundingly unimpressed with Beasley while manipulating a bidding war over him and the No. 2 pick. His smart rivals are getting a good laugh over Riles’ machinations on South Beach, concocting “secret” workouts with O.J. Mayo and Jerryd Bayless on Monday to create the impression that there’s a choice with the second pick.
“Those weren’t secret workouts,” one NBA executive with a team in the lottery said. “Those were plants.”
Once Miami made sure that people heard that Bayless had been beyond brilliant in those clandestine workouts, this rouse lost a little credibility. For people to suggest that Riley could draft Bayless over Beasley was shameful. Mayo? Maybe. Bayless? Never. “But you have to give him this: This whole thing is a way to smoke out everybody’s best offer for Beasley,” a Western Conference GM said.
Here’s something else to remember, too: Riley isn’t the Heat’s coach anymore. He’s the president. He wouldn’t be drafting Beasley for a Hall-of-Fame coach with four championship rings. Riley would be drafting him for Eric Spoelstra, a thirtysomething kid coach getting the break of a lifetime. For himself, Riley has always erred on the side of talent. For his hand-picked successor, perhaps Riley is uneasy about thrusting upon him a class clown shooting spitballs at the chalkboard.
It would be easier to dismiss Beasley had his performance as a college freshman been as spotty as his behavior, but that wasn’t the case. As one GM said, “He gave you 33 games of great consistency. I mean, he gave you 33 games of kick-ass numbers. It’s not like they all came at the end of the year. These were Kevin Durant numbers out of him.
“How does Miami pass on him? Well, I want to know how does Chicago pass on him?”
Whatever Chicago and Miami wanted to hear out of Beasley, he didn’t give it to them. He still shrugged his shoulders on Wednesday, and claimed confusion over the fuss made about his character. The NBA is desperate to make him a multi-millionaire, a franchise star, and Beasley doesn’t seem so interested with sticking to the smart script.
“I’m a kid,” he said. “I don’t want to grow up too fast. I want to live my life. People that think I’m immature…I’m not 25. I don’t know why people want me to act like I’m 30. I want to have fun. I just want to be a kid sometimes.”
Wrong answer, Michael.