HANG TIME, Texas – To paraphrase the line from the classic film “It’s A Wonderful Life“, every time Michael Beasley rings an exit bell, Darko Milicic gets another set of wings.
How much longer will Millicic wear the infamous yoke of worst No. 2 pick of the past 10 years now that Beasley’s been bounced from his third NBA team in five seasons?
As well, what is Beasley’s next stop after being waived by the Suns barely 14 months after signing a three-year, $18-million contract?
Nobody’s ever doubted Beasley’s ability to score or rebound when motivated. The trouble is a penchant for trouble that comes from an attention span shorter than the 24-second shot clock, his arrest in August for marijuana possession only the most recent example.
The fact that a Phoenix franchise that won only 25 games last season and did not sell out a single date at home at US Airways Center would spend $7 million to kiss off a 6-foot-10, 24-year-old forward practically shouts warnings from the rooftop.
This is the NBA, where there are more second-, third- and fourth-chance believers than the lottery machine at the corner convenience store.
Enter the Lakers.
They are, after all, a team that has pursued Beasley hungrily in the past, thinking a couple of times during the 2011-12 season that they might have had deals to pry him out of Minnesota.
The Lakers, too, in the wake of Dwight Howard’s departure, are a franchise wearing the whiff of new cologne — Eau de Desperation — as they pray for an improbable Hollywood script mending of Kobe Bryant’s torn Achilles’ tendon and bide time until the next free agent auction in the summer of 2014.
As pointed out by Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com, if the Lakers could sign Beasley for the veteran’s minimum of roughly $1 million for the upcoming season, it would allow them to keep salary cap space open for next summer and give a boost to an offense that needs help.
This is a guy who has a career high of 42 points, a guy who once put up 22 points and 15 rebounds in a playoff game, a guy who has a 34.5 percent career mark from 3, but has shot 36.6 percent or better from deep in three out of his five career seasons.
Don’t discount the appeal of Beasley’s ability to shoot it, either. The Lakers drafted Ryan Kelly in the second round primarily for his ability to stretch the floor with his long-range accuracy, but the team has been discouraged by the rookie’s progress during the summer, according to multiple league sources. The Lakers doubt that Kelly, who missed summer league while recovering from multiple foot procedures, will be ready for the start of training camp.
There are certainly financial reasons for Beasley to choose to play someplace else, the $7 million buyout he received from the Suns notwithstanding. Teams such as Milwaukee or Philadelphia could sign him to get close to the mandatory payroll minimum. Could you see him getting thrown a rope by an unlikely savior such as Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, figuring the stable, solid, no-nonsense Spurs locker room kept one knucklehead — i.e. Stephen Jackson — in line and could do it again?
At this point, Beasley comes with his own loud warning siren and flashing red lights. Yet there are those 42 points he scored one night against the Kings, those 19.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 2.2 apg he averaged in the only NBA season he played more than 30 minutes a game. And for the Lakers, well, desperation has made stranger bedfellows.
Because of all the things he can do with the ball in his hands, it’s probably premature to say Beasley is down to his last chance, but Darko is over there in the corner flapping his wings.