Posts Tagged ‘Michael Beasley’

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 2


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 1

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Knicks continue to struggle | Report: Rockets want 2 first-rounders for Asik | Hollins wants another NBA coaching gig | D’Antoni pushing Young for Sixth Man honors | Beasley finding a role in Miami

No. 1: Arguments mark Knicks’ latest loss — At 3-13 and with nine straight losses to their name, the New York Knicks are the coldest team in the Eastern Conference and sit tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for the conference’s worst record. In short, it’s not pretty for New York right now and things were particularly unpleasant last night at the Garden, when in the course of losing to the New Orleans Pelicans, Knicks guard Iman Shumpert got into on-court arguments with both rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. and leading scorer Carmelo Anthony. Marc Berman of the New York Post details that tiff, while in another report, ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Begley has some telling words from Anthony and coach Mike Woodson on New  York’s slump:

A shouting match with Carmelo Anthony and rookie Tim Hardaway Jr.’s breakout game may have pushed Iman Shumpert closer to the door.

Hardaway is fighting for playing time with Shumpert, who got into a heated rant with Anthony on the Knicks bench during a third-quarter timeout. Anthony didn’t look at him as Shumpert raved. Shumpert, who was then benched for the fourth quarter of the 103-99 loss to the Pelicans, called his tiff with Anthony “a miscommunication’’ on defense.

“Of course I wanted to play,’’ Shumpert said. “Tim was making shots. J.R. [Smith] had it rolling. We were just trying to get a win.’’

Anthony declined to talk about Shumpert, who has been on the trading block since the middle of last month. Trades usually pick up Dec. 15, because free agents signed over the summer and draft picks can be dealt.

Anthony and Woodson both think the Knicks have been playing ‘not to lose’ of late and that the losing streak has affected New York in several ways:

Shortly after the New York Knicks dropped their ninth-straight game, star forward Carmelo Anthony said the team is “playing to lose” and appears “a little tense” as the losses pile up.

“I think we’re playing to lose rather than playing to win right now,” Anthony said after the Knicks’ 103-99 loss to New Orleans on Sunday. “When you lose games the way we’ve been losing them at home, on the road, you start thinking a lot. You start playing a little tense, you start playing on your heels.”

“We just can’t seem to get it together,” Anthony said after scoring 23 points and grabbing ten rebounds. “We can’t seem to figure it out.”

The Knicks’ last home win was Oct. 30 against Milwaukee in the season opener.

Head coach Mike Woodson admitted the obvious when he said the losing streak is weighing on his players.

“I thought coming down the stretch, we played on our heels. The [eight-game losing streak] we were looking at here was staring at us in the face [and] instead of relaxing and just playing, we just didn’t make one play,” Woodson said.

The Knicks have held two closed-door meetings in the past three weeks to try to turn things around. Anthony isn’t sure if another one will help.

“I don’t know what we have to do as far as coming together as a group,” Anthony said. “I don’t know if we’ve got to sit here for hours and talk and get it all out, but we’ve got to do something.”

Anthony said earlier this week that he worried about his team going into a “dark place.” He doesn’t think the Knicks are there yet.

“Anytime you’re fighting an uphill battle, you feel like you’re in a dark place. But we can’t go to that place,” he said. “I’ve never been to that place. I don’t plan on getting to that place.”

Firings and trades aside, Anthony believes the bigger issue for the Knicks right now is a lack of identity.

“Last year around this time we had our identity as who we were as a team,” he said. “This year we’re still searching who we are as a team and who we’re going to be as a team.”


VIDEO: Carmelo Anthony discusses New York’s loss to the Pelicans, nine-game slump

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No. 2: Report: Rockets want two first-rounders in Asik tradesOmer Asik has worked his way back into Houston’s playing rotation, logging 20 minutes in the Rockets’ thrilling win over the Spurs on Saturday night. However, Asik continues to be a popular name on the trading block and seems all-but certain to be dealt at some point this season. What the Rockets are apparently asking for Asik, though, might make the kind of deal they want hard to come by. Alan Hahn of MSG Networks explains and provides a bit of Knicks slant on any possible deal, too:

The name that is dominating the early rumors is Omer Asik of the Rockets. The disgruntled center can be had, but Houston isn’t just giving him away.

In fact, the Rockets are setting the market high for Asik, with a demand of two first round picks in any deal.

That eliminates the Knicks, who have given away enough first rounders over the last few years. They can’t move one until 2018.

Even if they did, Asik’s luxury tax hit next season is the same as Jeremy Lin‘s ($15 million), which would make it an expensive transaction.

It’s more likely the Knicks will target more of an “energy” big, if they can land one. Kenneth Faried, a recently rumored name, certainly would fit that mold, but the Nuggets have shown no interest in making a deal.

The Knicks, like many teams in the league, could use an upgrade at the point guard position but that’s like shopping for a BMW with a Kia budget.

And the competitive market for point guards has gone up even more now that the Bulls are shopping hastily for one in the wake of Derrick Rose‘s season-ending injury.

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No. 3: Hollins turned down chance to be assistant in Detroit — After being fired by the Memphis Grizzlies following a 56-win season and a berth in the 2013 Western Conference finals, coach Lionel Hollins has spent his down time playing golf, putting in some work for NBA TV and watching his son, Austin, play at the University of Minnesota. In an extended, insightful interview with ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelbourne, Hollins talks about his desire to coach again in the NBA and how he passed on a chance to be an assistant in Detroit this season:

Nice as the time off has been, however, Hollins is ready to return to the NBA.

“I believe I’ve established myself as a head coach and I’d like another opportunity to show that [my success] wasn’t a fluke,” Hollins said. “I feel like I’ve proven I can take a young team and develop it, then sustain what I’ve done by what I did in the last five years in Memphis.”

Hollins was let go by the Grizzlies despite winning a franchise-record 56 games and leading Memphis to its first Western Conference Finals appearance last season. The reasons were philosophical in nature, after a season in which Hollins didn’t always publicly embrace the moves or direction set by the Grizzlies’ new ownership and front office.

“We want to have the kind of organization where we get people in a room … who are going to disagree about what we should do and what the personnel moves should be,” Grizzlies president Jason Levien said in a radio interview with WHBQ after Hollins was let go. “We want to really dig in and get messy when we’re in that room talking about what the decision and direction should be. And then once we come to a decision, whatever that personnel decision is, we want to walk out of the room arm-in-arm, locked together in how we’re going to proceed.”

Hollins, who still makes his home in Memphis, declined to comment about his exit from the Grizzlies. He said that he has tried to keep a distance from his former players as well, out of respect for new coach Dave Joerger, who was an assistant for him last season. He occasionally runs into Tony Allen, whose wife is close with Hollins’ wife. He also sent a text message to center Marc Gasol recently, after he suffered a knee injury.

But mostly, he said he’s tried to move on with his life and career.

“I think Marc [Gasol] said it best, ‘It was odd knowing — from his perspective — that I wasn’t going to be there,’ ” Hollins said. “And from my perspective, it was odd knowing that we weren’t going to add a few pieces and build on what we’d already established. We were at a level where we needed to add the right pieces in order for us to take another leap. So it was just odd not being there and planning and going through the whole process that we normally do every summer with our young players, starting with the draft and then summer league and then the workouts that we have all summer, with players coming in and out. You get away from that routine. …

“I was antsy when training camp started. But once they started playing, I was comfortable not being there. I get to watch a lot of basketball on TV. And now I’ve gotten to re-evaluate what I like to do and what I want to do.”

Over the summer, Hollins said he had an opportunity to join Maurice Cheeks‘ staff with the Detroit Pistons as an assistant coach but declined.

“I had done it [serve as an assistant coach] for a long time before I was given the opportunity to be a head coach,” Hollins said. “But my thought process was, ‘I’ve established myself as a head coach. I’d like to stay in that state at the moment.’ But if it didn’t work out, yeah, I’d go back and be an assistant coach. I’d go to college and be a head coach there, if I had the opportunity. But my thought process is to be a professional head coach.”

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No. 4: D’Antoni hyping Young for Sixth Man of Year honors — Swingman Nick Young is averaging 14.2 ppg this season, only .1 ppg behind team leader Pau Gasol for the No. 1 spot on the Lakers. But while Gasol has started all 18 games for the Lakers this season, Young has notched just six starts, doing most of his damage off the bench. That big scoring punch and his vital role in L.A.’s offense has coach Mike D’Antoni starting some early buzz for Young in the Sixth Man of the Year campaign, writes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

Within a two-month span, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has viewed Nick Young as a a streaky shooter and inconsistent defender to a candidate for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.

“He should. If we can get our record [good],” D’Antoni said. “That’s going to be the product of the team. He’s playing well enough. But if we surprise people, get in the playoffs and do really well, yeah, he’ll have a really good chance at it.”

Ever since D’Antoni demoted him as a starting small forward to a reserve, Young has jokingly touted himself as a sixth man of the year candidate. Young has backed up those words said in jest with his play. Young has averaged 16.5 points on 47.4 percent shooting in 27.1 minutes through 11 games as a reserve.

“I’m loving it with his concentration and ability not to take a play off,” D’Antoni said. “We have a few guys who have home run trots and were not engaged. But for the most part, most guys have gotten that out of their game. They’re engaged. A lot of that is due to the chemistry of the team and how they feel about themselves. We can keep getting better. He’s playing both ends of the floor. He’s playing phenomenally.”

So much that Young has slightly altered his nickname.

“As he says, he’s changed his name to ‘Swaggy D,’” D’Antoni said with a smile. “We’ll see how that holds up.”

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No. 5: Heat finding steady role for Beasley — In the offseason, the Heat more or less took a flyer on their former No. 2 overall pick, Michael Beasley, after the Suns terminated his contact. Early in the season, Beasley’s role was that of mostly mop-up duty in blowouts with some sporadic minutes during games when the decision was not in doubt. That has changed of late as Beasley is averaging 19.5 mpg over his last four games and had a solid night against Charlotte last night (four points, seven rebounds) as Miami rallied for a win. After the game, coach Erik Spoelstra explained to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel how he and the Heat have started to find an appropriate role for Beasley in Miami’s stacked lineup:

If it looks only now like Erik Spoelstra is developing a role for Michael Beasley, you’re not too far off.

The Miami Heat coach acknowledged Sunday that it wasn’t until after training camp that he began formulating a plan for the Heat 2008 first-round draft choice. Before that, he said it was just about creating a fit with the versatile forward who had split the previous three seasons between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns.

“With Michael,” Spoelstra said, “it was more about, initially, we felt he was part of our family. We drafted him. We spent a lot of time with him, not only during those two regular seasons, but during the offseasons and we just wanted to open up our arms back into our family.  “That was our initial thought when we talked to him. I didn’t even talk role. I didn’t even talk specifics about anything. I didn’t talk about, ‘Hey, you’re going to learn from these guys.’ It was, ‘Hey, come back to the family,’ and just get back into the routine and we’ll take it from there. After training camp, that’s about the first time I really started to talk about a possible role with him.”

Spoelstra said it was more about allowing the Heat’s locker-room culture to envelop Beasley, who returned on a one-year, non-guaranteed, veteran-minimum contract.

“Our whole locker room is important for anybody we bring in now, that there’s a world-class professionalism we expect from everybody, and our guys live and breathe it,” Spoelstra said. “They take pride in it. There’s a culture and discipline and structure to how we do things. And so when we’re recruiting players, we always have that in mind, whether a guy will fit in. We love it that guys will get inspired by each others’ professionalism and work ethic.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Anthony Davis is out indefinitely after breaking his hand in last night’s game against the KnicksWesley Matthews says the Blazers aren’t a ‘cool’ team, but rather, a pack of ‘dogs’ … The Wolves were selling tickets that give fans the right to high-five the Heat as they come out of the tunnel when they visit Minnesota …

ICYMI Of The Night: All you have to do is watch what Steph Curry and Klay Thompson did last night in Sacramento to understand why they’re called the Splash Bros. …


VIDEO: Steph Curry & Klay Thompson run wild against Kings

Improved ‘D’ Fuels Quick Start For Bobcats, Suns And Magic

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – It’s early.

But the Philadelphia 76ers aren’t the only surprise team of the 2013-14 season’s first 10 days. The Charlotte Bobcats, Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns – three teams projected by most to finish in the in the bottom five of the league – are all 3-2 entering Friday’s 12-game slate.

When we look at these three rosters, we see a lack of talent. And from that we can predict that they will struggle offensively. But team defense is another story, especially when you have a new coach, like in Charlotte and Phoenix. Organization and energy on defense can help teams with limited talent overachieve. And defense is the common theme in the early success of these three squads, though one of the three has been much more successful on that end of the floor.

Again, it’s early.

But the Magic, Suns and Bobcats rank third, eighth and 13th in defensive efficiency, respectively. And they all rank among the six most improved defensive teams from last season.

Here’s a closer look…

Charlotte

DefRtg: 100.4 (13th)
Improvement: -8.6 (6th)

The Bobcats’ wins have come against the Cavs, Knicks and Raptors, by a total of 13 points. So just like last year’s 7-5 start, there’s a fool’s gold element here.

In only one of their five games – the win over Cleveland – have they held their opponent under a point per possession. And the Cavs currently rank 29th in offensive efficiency. Bobcats opponents have been a hair less efficient (100.3 points scored per 100 possessions) in their 20 games not against Charlotte.

That doesn’t mean that the future Hornets don’t have anything to feel positive about. They had a hobbled Al Jefferson for just their first game and scored 107 points per 100 possessions over their last two wins. Once they add a healthy Jefferson to their Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions pick-and-rolls, the offense should be even better.

And long term, the Cats will be more organized defensively under Steve Clifford than they were under Mike Dunlap. The early defensive numbers are a little inflated though.

Phoenix

DefRtg: 96.4 (8th)
Improvement: -9.3 (5th)

The Suns have beaten Portland, Utah and New Orleans by a total of 22 points. And they also hung in with the Thunder and Spurs on the road. Their opponents have scored 100.0 points per 100 possessions in their 18 games not against Phoenix.

The Suns had the worst 3-point defense in the league last season and were particularly bad at defending the arc (41.5 percent) with Michael Beasley on the floor. There’s definitely an addition-by-subtraction element here.

They’ve also improved quite a bit on the glass, ranking 11th in defensive rebounding percentage (74.8 percent) after ranking 23rd (71.9 percent) last season. More playing time for the Morris twins has helped in that regard. The Suns have grabbed 75.4 percent of available defensive boards and allowed just 90.6 points per 100 possessions in 148 minutes with one of the two twins on the floor.

Time will tell if Jeff Hornacek‘s defense will continue to hold up, but the signs are good so far. They host the Nuggets and Pelicans this weekend and could face their toughest defensive test on Wednesday, when they visit the Blazers, who currently rank sixth offensively.

Orlando

DefRtg: 94.8 (3rd)
Improvement: -11.9 (1st)

Of the three teams, it’s the Magic who have looked most legit, with wins over the Pelicans, Nets and Clippers by a total of 49 points.

Last season, the Magic defense was strong early in the season, but collapsed after Glen Davis got hurt. So the prospects of them being a decent defensive team while Davis was still recovering from foot surgery were not good. But here they are at No. 3 in the league, having held the Pelicans, Nets and Clippers under 90 points per 100 possessions.

Both Brooklyn and L.A. spoke about a lack of effort in their games in Orlando. The Nets were probably feeling themselves after last Friday’s win over the Heat, and the Clippers were maybe looking forward to their own game against the champs.

But Orlando’s defensive numbers are pretty darn impressive anyway. The Pelicans, Nets and Clippers scored a combined 89.5 points per 100 possessions against Orlando, compared to 108.0 in their other 12 games. L.A. currently ranks No. 1 in the league offensively.

Orlando opponents OffRtg

Team vs. ORL Other games Diff.
Indiana 101.0 99.4 +1.6
Minnesota 103.5 94.1 +9.4
New Orleans 91.4 103.7 -12.2
Brooklyn 89.0 102.5 -13.4
L.A. Clippers 88.0 114.5 -26.4
TOTAL 94.8 103.4 -8.5

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions

The Magic are forcing 1.2 more turnovers per 100 possessions than they did last season, but the early improvement has been mostly about shot defense. And there’s multiple elements to that.

They’re defending the rim better, defending the 3-point line better, and allowing less of those high-efficiency shots. Only 48.1 percent of their opponents’ shots have come from the restricted area or from 3-point range, the second-lowest rate in the league. Last season, that number was 56.7 percent, the 14th lowest rate in the league.

Of Brooklyn’s 89 shots in Orlando last Sunday, 50 came from between the restricted area and the 3-point line. On Wednesday, it was 55 of the Clippers’ 95 shots.

The Magic had a multiple-prong game plan against the Clips, and it worked. First, they sagged deep on Chris Paul‘s pick-and-rolls.

20131106_paul_sag

Paul stepped into some easy elbow jumpers, but the sagging strategy prevented him from getting past the Magic big men and really compromising the Orlando D.

Second, they dared Blake Griffin to shoot from mid-range.

20131106_griffin_space

Griffin was 3-for-13 from outside the paint before that game, but shot an impressive 7-for-13 from mid-range on Wednesday. Still, he got just three shots at the rim.

Finally, the Magic cross-matched in the backcourt, assigning Jameer Nelson to defend his old teammate J.J. Redick. And Nelson did a fantastic job of running Redick off the 3-point line. Here are a couple of examples…


Redick is a great shooter from everywhere, but three is greater than two, so if you can force him into more mid-range shots than threes, you’re doing your job. On Wednesday, Redick was 1-for-5 from 3-point range and 3-for-8 from mid-range.

One more time: It’s early. But an ability to execute a defensive game plan against a great offensive team like that early in the season is a good sign for the Magic defense.

One Team, One Stat: Offensive Regression Sends Suns Sputtering

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next is the Phoenix Suns, another team that couldn’t get it done on either end of the floor.

The basics
PHX Rank
W-L 25-57 27
Pace 95.9 9
OffRtg 98.2 29
DefRtg 105.7 24
NetRtg -7.5 28

The stat

5.3 - Fewer points per 100 possessions that the Suns scored last season than they did in 2011-12. No team regressed more offensively.

The context

Losing Steve Nash will do that to you. Nash-led teams (in Dallas and Phoenix) ranked No. 1 in offensive efficiency for nine straight seasons between 2001-02 and ’09-10. The Suns were still a top-10 offense in his last two seasons in Phoenix, and they were always much better offensively with him on the floor.

Most regressed offenses, points per 100 possessions

Team 2011-12 Rank 2012-13 Rank Diff.
Phoenix 103.5 8 98.2 29 -5.3
Chicago 104.5 5 100.4 24 -4.1
Orlando 102.4 14 98.9 27 -3.5
San Antonio 108.5 1 105.9 7 -2.6
Philadelphia 101.7 17 99.5 26 -2.1

A regression of 5.3 points per 100 possessions may not seem huge, but the league, as a whole, improved by 1.3. So, compared to the league average, the Suns regressed by 6.6.

The Suns still had some decent talent on last year’s roster, with Goran Dragic and Luis Scola joining Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat in the starting lineup. They certainly had more talent than the Bobcats, Magic or Sixers, three teams that finished ahead of them in offensive efficiency.

But one new face may have been subtraction by addition. Michael Beasley took the third most shots on the Suns and was, basically, the least efficient scorer in the league. Among 177 players who attempted at least 500 shots from the field, Beasley ranked last in true shooting percentage (46.2 percent).

True shooting percentage = PTS / (2 * (FGA + (0.44* FTA)))

Beasley ranked 15th in the league in usage rate and was the only player in the top 100 that scored less than a point per field goal attempt. He took 17.7 shots per 36 minutes, most on the Suns. The much more efficient Dudley took 11.1, while Gortat took just 10.9, down from 13.1 the previous season.

On Dec. 12 against the Grizzlies, Beasley took 11 shots in just 10 minutes of playing time. He made two of them.

On April 7 against New Orleans, he took 11 shots in 15:29, making just one. The Hornets had the league’s worst defense after the All-Star break and the Suns scored just 19 points on 29 possessions (66 per 100) with Beasley on the floor.

Here are the shots he took…


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Too many mid-range jumpers. Too many times where open 3-point shooters went ignored. Very little work within the Suns’ offense.

Now, this isn’t meant to be an attack on Beasley. He is who he is. But it’s a suggestion that if you take the least efficient scorer in the league off your team and give his shots to anyone else, your offense is going to be a little better.

The problem is that Dudley and Scola are gone, and Gortat is apparently prepared for his eventual departure. Though they no longer have the inefficient Beasley, they also lack guys who can create shots for others and guys who can knock down shots that others create for them.

A year after losing Nash, the Suns took another step backward. But maybe they can at least avoid contested, pull-up, mid-range jumpers with 22 seconds on the shot clock.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

No Expectations For Beasley, Oden

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MIAMI – New additions Michael Beasley and Greg Oden add a little intrigue to what would otherwise have been a very steady-and-settled training camp for the Miami Heat. Beasley was brought in on a non-guaranteed deal after being waived by the Phoenix Suns just one year into a three-year contract. Oden is trying to return from a nearly four-year absence and multiple knee injuries.

With the Heat returning the top nine players in their championship rotation, there’s no real need for either Beasley or Oden to contribute right away, or at all, really. Mike Miller is gone, which is a true loss, but Miller was only needed for spot duty last season. That role could be filled by James Jones or Rashard Lewis.

Both newcomers arrive with more doubt than promise, Oden because he hasn’t played since December of 2009 and Beasley because he seems to be a terrible fit for the Heat’s efficient and LeBron James-focused system.

As was the case with Eddy Curry two seasons ago, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra doesn’t have either guy penciled in for any particular role.

“No expectations,” Spoelstra said of both guys. For Oden, the next several months are about getting healthy and in basketball shape.

“He’s inspired by the opportunity to help us,” Spoelstra said. “But more than anything, we just want to see him get back out there, have a smile on his face, and be able to do what he loves. He’s had some setbacks, but that does not define his whole career. This, we feel, is a perfect fit for him.

“I’m going into it with a open mind. No expectations. There’s certainly no timetable. He’s in here five hours a day. He’s doing more and more. The biggest test with us is can we add to the workload and see how he feels the next day, and without the timetable of having to perform and have those expectations.”

Oden said it’s going to “take some time” for him to get back to feeling comfortable on the court. And though his knees “slow me down just a little bit,” he’s happy to be where he is in the process.

“I haven’t be doing anything but just rehabbing for the past three [years],” he said. “Right now, I’ve been on the court. I’ve been running up and down a little bit. And that’s more than I can say I’ve done in three years.”

Earning a spot in the rotation isn’t on his mind right now, which is an expectation well aligned with his new team.

“A mark of success for me is walking on to a court and walking off healthy,” he said. “Being able to play in a game and just walk off the court healthy, no matter if it was one minute or two minutes. My dream is being able to play basketball, and if I can go out there and do it, run up and down and come off the court again healthy, that’s goal one. Goal two is going to my second game, going on the court and walking off.”

For Beasley, this is about seeing if he can fit in with what the Heat have built since they sent him packing three years ago. He certainly has the talent to help this team, but his inefficient and erratic style of play, not to mention his lack of focus, would seemingly be a detriment to what is a disciplined and well-oiled machine on both ends of the floor.

“I’m happy he’s back,” Dwyane Wade said of Beasley. “I think he’s a spark plug that this team needed from a talent standpoint. But as I always say, Michael’s greatness is on Michael. How great he wants to be will be predicated on him.”

Ultimately, the move could benefit Beasley more than it does the Heat … if they keep him around for more than a couple of weeks.

“We’re excited about just bringing him back into our organization and everything that comes with it, the culture, the discipline, the structure,” Spoelstra said. “We were glad we were able to have that opportunity for him and I think he’s very happy to be able to get back with us.”

“I’m coming here knowing that this team doesn’t need me,” Beasley said. “I’m grateful that they still even care.”

Including Oden, the Heat have 13 guys on guaranteed contracts. So there is space for Beasley if he can keep from being a distraction and somehow find a role. It seems like a long shot.

But this isn’t just a challenge for Beasley and Oden. Making what they can of these two reclamation projects is also a new project for the two-time champs. James feels a responsibility to integrate both into the Heat locker room.

“We can’t change the past,” he said. “We can only focus on the present and the future. Me as a leader, I’m excited to have them here and to help them get back to a point where they feel like they mean something, not only to this team, but prove to themselves that they can play this game and play it at a high level.”

Beasley, Lakers A Desperate Match?

HANG TIME, Texas – To paraphrase the line from the classic filmIt’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.

And yet.

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.

Butler Embraces Leading Suns, Beasley

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Eric Bledsoe, the 23-year-old point guard brimming with star potential, won the headlines in the Phoenix Suns’ July trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. But it might be the veteran in the deal, 33-year-old forward and by far the club’s elder statesmen, Caron Butler, who proves most valuable in this important transitional season for a franchise on the skids.

Troubled power forward Michael Beasley is the poster child for everything that’s gone wrong in Phoenix. He was a disgrace on the floor last season, his first after the Suns’ former front-office decision-makers gift-wrapped him a three-year, $18-million contract, and continues to be an embarrassment off it.

Investigated for sexual assault in May, Beasley was arrested two weeks ago when officers detected pot after pulling him over for speeding. The franchise has not publicly addressed this latest disappointment. The fact is they have two choices: Wipe their hands of him and eat the remaining $9 million he’s guaranteed, or somehow try to help the self-destructive former No. 2 pick, just 24, whose career, and potentially a life outside of prison, is hanging by the threads of a frayed shoelace.

“I think there’s a lot that can be done to help him and I think one is, and this is not from the organization or anything, but it’s just for the people who are around him and love him most, is just don’t give up on him, try to help him as much as possible, build him up because he’s a star,” Butler told NBA.com during a phone interview from his new home in Phoenix. “He’s a guy that had an unbelievable collegiate career, who came into the NBA as a top-two pick, so the talent is there, it hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s like clay, it just needs to be molded right. Somebody needs to be around him, talking to him and telling him the right things and building him up and keeping nothing but positive energy around him and moving him forward instead of pulling him back.”

Butler, a raging success story born out of an unsavory childhood, was arrested numerous times before he turned 15. He said if if the 6-foot-10, 235-pound Beasley remains with the team, Butler will stick by the Beasley’s side and mentor him.

“I would stay in his ear, I would definitely stay in his ear,” Butler said. “I would continue to motivate him and I would challenge him night-in and night-out, in practice, just whatever I can do to make him better I would do as a human being, and obviously as a basketball player because I think he has tremendous upside still. He’s just 24 years old.”

It’s hardly the role the 6-foot-7 small forward envisioned prior to July 10. Butler was at his offseason home in Washington D.C. with his wife and three young daughters when he received a phone call from his agent. He had been traded. Only a couple of weeks earlier Butler was ecstatic at the news that the Clippers had pulled off the deal to nab Celtics coach Doc Rivers, a move that would cinch Chris Paul‘s return and fire up championship hype. Then came the unsuspecting call from his agent that he and Bledsoe were headed to the 25-win Suns.

Butler soon saw the news on the crawl on TV. No one from the Clippers’ front office has called him, Butler said.

“I don’t leave with bitterness or anything, but a phone call would have helped the situation,” said Butler, who two summers ago signed a three-year, $24 million free-agent deal to play for the Clippers before the club’s fortuitous, franchise-changing trade for CP3. “But it’s cool, it’s no hard feelings because that’s the nature of the business.

“It’s a fun team to watch,” Butler continued. “Up-and-down tempo, you look at the high flyers of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and you’ve got a magician with the ball in Chris Paul. You got shooters around them, you got J.J. Redick, and a great coach and a great coaching staff. You look at that and that’s real appealing, and that’s Hollywood.”

With that potential storybook season fading to black, Butler quickly moved his family to Phoenix where he’s been working out in preparation for the start of training camp roughly still five weeks away. In July, he spent a week in Las Vegas during the NBA’s Summer League with a handful of veterans, including Andre Iguodala, participating an NBA Players Association leadership program. The intensive course ran eight hours a day and provided players who might have front-office aspirations with a comprehensive look inside the business, from the fine print of the collective bargaining agreement to formulating scouting reports on teams and players.

The week in Vegas also provided Butler a chance to have dinner with his new coach, Jeff Hornacek, and to mingle with — and scout — several of his new teammates that played on the summer team (one of his leadership program assignments was to scout the Suns players and coaches during a game), including Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, P.J. TuckerKendall Marshall and promising draft pick Archie Goodwin.

“I just saw a lot of potential,” said Butler, who slyly deferred when asked for his summation of Hornacek’s performance: “I can’t share that.”

So this new chapter isn’t CP3, Griffin, Doc and the Lob City thrill show he expected in the final year of his contract. But then Butler seems to possess a deeper perspective as he prepares for his 12th season with a sixth team.

“I look at it as a situation in which I look at my life, I look at my timeline, and one, a lot of people didn’t even have me here [in the NBA], and a lot of people didn’t have me here this long,” said Butler, who averaged 10.4 ppg last season and will likely see his career-low 24.1 mpg rise in Phoenix. “And to have the success that I have and still maintain my humbleness and still be the person that I am, that speaks volumes.

“So whatever comes my way, I take it in stride and I just keep moving forward. So it is what it is and I’m going to make the best out of the situation that I’m in now.”

And just maybe the Suns organization is hopeful that Beasley can learn from a man who has walked in shoes not much different from his own.

Beasley Will Walk Thin Line With New Suns

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Ryan McDonough, the 33-year-old rookie general manager of the Phoenix Suns has been on the job for some 80 days and already he’s showing some moxie.

Since drawing some blank stares as if his pick of Maryland big man Alex Len at No. 5 was a desert mirage while Kentucky 7-foot center Nerlens Noel, long projected to go No. 1, or Kansas scoring guard Ben McLemore stood in plain view, McDonough has now begun to rattle the thin roster he inherited.

He turned solid, if unspectacular, guard-forward Jared Dudley and a second-round draft pick into potential All-Star-quality guard Eric Bledsoe and veteran forward Caron Butler. Now, McDonough is on the verge of unloading fast-declining forward Luis Scola, an ill-fit in new coach Jeff Hornacek‘s favored up-tempo offense, in a trade with Indiana that will reportedly net lanky and athletic journeyman Gerald Green and project center Miles Plumlee, plus a lottery-protected first-round pick.

Not that those trades will launch the Suns into playoff contention, but the additions fill two key areas on McDonough’s list as he remakes the roster: athleticism and a fundamental work ethic. Which delivers us to the doorstep of the one player on the roster [note: my speculation only] McDonough would love to jettison if only he could: Michael Beasley.

Asked during the Las Vegas Summer League if he believes the always tantalizing, but troublesome 6-9, 235-pound power forward can be a positive force during this important transitional season, McDonough answered with a team-wide message — one that should resonate loudest between Beasley’s ears.

“I guess what I’ll say generally about that is we’re going to treat everybody the same,” McDonough said. “There won’t be any special treatment for anybody on the roster and as Jeff [Hornacek] and I told all the guys coming in, we don’t care how much money you’re making, where you were drafted, how long you’ve been in the league, what, if anything, you’ve been promised in the past. We’re going into this as an open competition, and when training camp comes, guys who buy in and play the right way and play hard will play, and those who don’t, won’t.”

In a league brimming with bright, young talent, Beasley, 24, has been far more raging headache than headstrong virtually since the day the Miami Heat drafted him second overall in 2008. Last summer, inexplicably, the gracious Suns, Beasley’s third team, handed him a three-year, $18 million deal. Still, Beasley ignored the cue that this was his big shot at a second chance, an opportunity to turn around his selfish and tiresome act, as well as his floundering career.

Former Suns coach Alvin Gentry benched the unproductive Beasley last season in fourth quarters as early as December, and finally stripped him of his starting job. Following the fired Gentry, interim coach Lindsey Hunter had no answers for Beasley’s inattention to defense or just about anything else.

Imagine if the Chicago Bulls had selected Beasley No. 1 over Derrick Rose? The Heat at No. 2 could have drafted No. 4 Russell Westbrook, No. 5 Kevin Love, No. 6 Danilo Gallinari, No. 7 Eric Gordon or No. 10 Brook Lopez.

If Beasley doesn’t answer this wake-up call, he won’t be afforded another chance. He is fortunate the NBA is not the non-guaranteed-contract world of the NFL, where a player can be cut and his contract flushed in a moment’s notice. It’s the only reason he has a job today.

Beasley averaged career lows across the board last season. His poor play and worse attitude drained a club that was already outmanned on most nights. But it’s not just on the court that Beasley will be expected to reform. His inability to stay out of hot water off remains troublesome. In May, police were investigating Beasley in connection with a report of sexual assault at his home.

The 2013-14 Suns will need a lot to come together fast to contend for the eighth seed. But under Hornacek’s guidance and with blue-collar players like P.J. Tucker along with twins Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris — all three of whom played on the Suns’ summer-league squad — and the additions of the up-and-coming Bledsoe and a tough-minded, respected veteran like Butler, Phoenix will play hard.

Beasley will either take this last, flashing-neon-sign-of-a-hint that his career is on the line, or, as McDonough said, he won’t.

What They’re Saying: On The Heat Streak




Seven games away from setting an NBA record for most consecutive wins in a season, the Miami Heat are the talk of the sporting world. The defending champions have not lost  a game since a 13-point setback in Indiana on Feb. 1 and have a chance — in some people’s minds, at least — to run the rest of the regular-season table.  Their winning streak, the second-longest in league history, stands at 27 games.

NBA.com dispatched our game reporters to talk to those around the NBA who have seen the streak close up. Here’s a sampling of what people are saying:

On the streak | How the Heat are winning | What makes Miami so good? |
Difference from last season’s team? | Chances at winning out? | How to stop the streak? |
Any weaknesses in this crew? | Juggernaut team a good or bad thing?

On the wonder of the streak …

Kevin McHale, coach, Houston Rockets: “The thing I’ve always been impressed about long winning streaks is the fact that you keep your concentration long enough to do it. You win 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 in a row, and you run into a bad team, and it’s late in the year, that’s usually when you stumble. I know the teams I played on went on a lot of 10, 11, 12, 13, 14-game streaks, and then we’d play a bad team, none of us would be ready, and they’d be all juiced up for us. You do get bored [when you're on a great team] a little bit, and you get complacent, and you start taking for granted you’re going to win. You need to lose one or two, and then you get refocused and play. But, as I’ve said all along — I know you guys don’t believe it — but actual human beings play this game. That’s just what happens.”

Ralph Lawler, announcer, Los Angeles Clippers: “I remember when the Los Angeles Lakers won 33 straight games in the 1971-72 season, it’s a record that I thought would never be broken. For the Heat to be approaching the mark, it’s extraordinary. Everyone is paying attention. Winning in the NBA is not an easy thing to do, and when you do it on a consistent basis, the pressure mounts. I think the players for the Heat understand what’s at stake. You can’t shut off the lights and say I’m not aware of what’s going on. LeBron James and his teammates might attempt to deflect talk about the winning streak to the media, but on the team plane and team bus, it’s all the buzz. If the Heat win 30, 31, or 32 games in-a-row, gee whiz, people will start to talk about them being world-beaters.”

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder: “It’s hard to win basketball games in this league and to win ’em in a row is even harder and over 20 is really tough, so we don’t have any hate in our blood over here. We give respect when it’s due. But I would say we’re not worried about what they’re doing, it’s just that all we’re focused on is us. But every time you turn on the TV you hear it and once you really sit back and look at it, it’s impressive.”

Marreese Speights, Cleveland Cavaliers: “If you can’t get excited about playing Miami, then you’re not a basketball player. Everyone around the league is watching you because they’re all keeping an eye on them. [Those] are the games you love to play.”

George Karl, coach, Denver Nuggets: “They’ve won a lot of close games. Sacramento almost beat them, they had a close game with Philadelphia, a one-possession game. It’s a pretty amazing [streak]. Thirteen is a lot [the Nuggets had a 13-game streak and the time], so you double that … it’s pretty impressive.

Daniel Gibson, Cleveland Cavaliers: “When they go into every city, people want to see them. It’s exciting for all of us. They’re playing at such a high clip, you can’t help but want to watch them play.”

Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets: “Winning streaks are always fun to be a part of, but it is tough when you see one team win so much … No one is scared of these guys, but I think most of the league respects the way they’ve handled their business.”

Scott Brooks, coach, Oklahoma City Thunder: “I’ve never seen it in my lifetime, I mean I know the Lakers did it in the 70s but I wasn’t following the NBA in the early ’70s. But just to do what they’re doing now with the parity that we have in the league it’s pretty amazing. There’s so many games that you have to have everything go right to win. The travel, the back-to-backs, the injuries you have to overcome, the foul trouble, the turnovers, just everything about it and to win 25 straight games … give them credit because they have the mental ability to have the mindset to do that night in and night out, that’s just pretty phenomenal.”

On the way the Heat have won during their streak …

Matt Bonner, San Antonio Spurs: “The Heat have been impressive in that they’ve won in all types of fashion. They’ve won close games, blowouts. They’re rolling. Playing great. Everybody wants to be the team that’s going to break their streak, and that’s what makes it impressive, too. They’re getting everyone’s best shot.”

Gibson: “It definitely shows how focused they are because they have to come in every night prepared. It’s very tough to do because you also got to have a little luck with you because guys have to stay healthy, and everybody has to be clicking.”

Jerry Stackhouse, Brooklyn Nets: “It can be tough building a streak. When you’re constantly trying to find motivation, you can get some mental fatigue. But I think with it being so close to the end of the season and they’re trying to go into the playoffs on a high note, I don’t think it’s as tough a task. If it was earlier in the season, you feel like you’ve got so many games left and you’re not going to win them all, so this might be a good night to just chill out. I just think it comes down to their execution late in games. They trust each other. They’ve been together a while, enough now to know what to do. Their confidence is high.” (more…)

Shaqtin’ A Fool: Vol 2., Episode 13


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On the eve of All-Star Weekend, Shaq pays tribute to the fans of the Phoenix Suns, Kobe, Michael Beasley, Blake Griffin, and of course, Shaq’s main man, JaVale McGee . Vote for your favorite Shaqtin’ A Fool moment!

Beasley Says He Can Rise With Suns

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DALLAS – As Michael Beasley slammed a chicken tenders basket at his locker about 90 minutes before his Phoenix Suns were to face the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, he seemed more pleased with the savory french fries than digging up the past yet again.

“These fries are good, man,” Beasley said between shoveling handfuls of the greasy goodness into his mouth.

Beasley’s first season with the Phoenix Suns, one promising a fresh start on what some might hail as an overly generous three-year, $18 million contract considering his past work history, has not been so tasty for Suns fans to digest.

The former No. 2 pick has been bad, so bad that halfway through the first half of the season he lost his starting job on what is now the worst team in the Western Conference. The saving grace at this point for the Suns and their leery fans would seem to be that the final $6.25 million on Beasley’s third season, in 2014-15, is non-guaranteed.

But Beasley, sounding as honest as when he critiqued those fries, said he wants to be the guy who helps turn this once-proud franchise that rose to great heights on the sturdy, trustworthy and fan-friendly shoulders of Steve Nash.

“That’s the plan,” said Beasley, who turned 24 earlier this month and remains a 6-foot-10, 235-pound and heavily tattooed enigma. “Hey, I definitely want the fans to support me and understand me, but I realize with my past, it’s a long shot.”

On Jan. 2, just two months into the season and three weeks after veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell tweeted that a Suns source deemed Beasley “toxic,” a headline in the USA Today screamed: “Michael Beasley has bottomed out in Phoenix.”

Already? Was it true?

“Tomato, to-mah-to, I guess,” Beasley said. “It really don’t matter. Only thing you can do is look forward to the future. I realize what I’m doing — career-low in every category. But it’s time to, like I said, I’m going to go hard. I feel like if I play hard, I have great games, not even great games, good games. I haven’t had a good game yet, haven’t had a great game in a while. If I play hard I have good games, we win most of the time.”

Interim Suns coach Lindsey Hunter, who served as director of player development before being promoted in the wake of Alvin Gentry‘s recent firing, said he worked closely in his previous post with Beasley and earned a mutual trust, yet he’s at a loss to explain the player’s early missteps when this was supposed to be a fresh start, a clean slate.

Yet, through Hunter’s words comes the depth of the task at hand to transform this young, often troubled player who has no practical foundation of discipline or even organization to build upon, into a cornerstone of a franchise, or at the least, a reliable teammate.

“He’s still growing. He has a lot of room to grow and I think he’s willing to do that. And we’re challenging him,” Hunter said. “He’s been on a couple of different teams and people have given up on him. We feel like if we give you all the tools you need to get yourself together than we’re giving you a great opportunity and you should take advantage of it. And he has.

“He’s wanting to change, wanting to get himself together, get himself, like, have a schedule for himself,” Hunter continued. “Those are things we take for granted, but Mike has probably never done that in his life. And so once we get him to understanding that, hey, put all this together and basketball will be easy, then he’ll be great.”

That day seems far away as the Suns’ front office is faced with no easy answers.

Beasley, as he attests, is averaging career lows across the board: 10.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 21.5 mpg and a 39.3 field-goal percentage. After rifling through the chicken finger basket and dressing for the game while rapping out loud the inaudible lyrics streaming through his headphones, Beasley managed 12 points on 4-for-10 shooting and four rebounds. He recorded a team-worst minus-17 in 20 minutes and the Suns lost for the 30th time in 45 games.

Beasley’s game was particularly disappointing coming off the previous night’s 25-point effort as the Suns went toe-to-toe with the Spurs in San Antonio before wilting late. In fact, in the previous six games, Beasley produced some of his best-scoring games of the season such as scoring 20 points in a win at Chicago after having gone five consecutive games with two points or less, and then 19 points in another rare road win at Sacramento.

Ever since his one season at Kansas State, nothing is certain with Beasley. Will he change? Is it possible? Only Beasley can really know if it is.

“It’s life. My past is my past and mine’s not pretty. Nobody has a pretty past,” Beasley said. “Everybody in the world did things they regret, are not proud of. I get that a lot from a lot of different people saying, ‘Man, in my 20s, you’ve got a long way to go to mess up as bad as I did.’ I say that because we all have pasts, every single one of us. Nobody’s perfect.

“We all have things we’re not that proud of, things we wish we could take back. The great ones learn from them and that’s what I did, I learned from my mistakes. The lunatics just make the same mistakes.”

By the final year of his deal, and for their sake hopefully sooner, the Suns will for sure know which one they’re dealing with.