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Laker's Michael Beasley: Reviving a career

Anthony Koon
ANALYST
Feature
147   //    Timeless

Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors

To say that forward Michael Beasley has had an unconventional career arc would be an understatement. Once a sure-fire can't miss prospect taken #2 overall, Beasley has played for seven NBA teams and even at one point found himself playing basketball in a Tier II Chinese City for the Shandong Golden Stars - all before age 30.

Michael Beasley has always been able to ball, but his off-court issues nearly sunk what at one point looked to be an incredibly promising career.

Miami Heat

When he was drafted #2 overall in 2008, Beasley was expected to slot in next to Dwyane Wade and bring the Heat back to their 2006 championship level almost overnight. Beasley was known as a bit of a "problem child" coming out of high school, but his fantastic stats and lack of disciplinary issues in college convinced NBA GMs that he was NBA ready.

In his first season, Beasley posted 13.9 points per game to go with 5.5 rebounds and shot over 40% from three. His solid campaign was marred in part due to his alleged involvement in an incident at a rookie transition camp - supposed to teach rookies how to stay out of trouble - involving women and, supposedly, marijuana.

In his second season, while not as effective from the field or 3, Beasley improved his scoring to 14.8 points per game and upped his rebound to 6.4 per game.


Minnesota Timberwolves

Beasley's role as potential franchise cornerstone was then scrapped as LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach. In order to help open up cap space for James and other superstar addition Chris Bosh, Beasley was moved to Minnesota before the 2010-2011 season for draft picks.

Beasley posted his best season to date in 2010 as he nearly averaged 20 points per game for the Timberwolves. However, despite his offensive game evolving and growing as expected, Beasley became a liability both on the defensive end and off the court.

After the 2010-11 season, Beasley was fined and ticketed for marijuana possession. This was far from Beasley's first off the court issue as outside of the rookie transition camp incident, he served a stint in a rehab program in 2009.

The following season started to see Beasley's production slip as he battled a foot injury while his scoring fell to 11.5 points per game on less effective shooting. As a result, Minnesota flipped Beasley after the 2011-2012 season to the Phoenix Suns.

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Phoenix Suns

Beasley was up and down with the Suns, and despite posting the lowest scoring average of his career (at the time), he showed flashes of the elite offensive talent that had him taken #2 overall just 4 years earlier.

However, off the court issues followed Beasley to Phoenix as he was released following his arrest of suspicion of drug possession in 2013 and coinciding sexual assault investigation (in which all charges were later dropped).


Return to Miami and the CBA

After being cleared of charges regarding his sexual assault case, Beasley was offered another chance to prove himself with the team that originally drafted him. In what would be LeBron's final go-round with the Heat during the 2013-2014 season, Beasley didn't see much playing time on the loaded roster and posted one of his worst seasons to date. The Grizzlies signed Beasley to a non-guaranteed contract after the season but promptly waived him.

With no real interest in the talented, yet mercurial undersized big, Beasley took his talents to China and the CBA. Playing for the Shanghai Sharks, Beasley posted a gaudy stat line of 28/10/5, but couldn't lead the Sharks to a playoff berth. He did, however, post a CBA record 59 points in the All-Star game, which was apparently enough for the Heat to take another flier on Beasley, bringing him back on 10-day deal to close out the 2015 season.

Beasley actually was an effective scorer off the bench for the Heat to close out the season, but the team decided to pass on bringing back Beasley in favor of focusing on drafting young talent and building around those pieces. With no suitors again, Beasley found himself in the Tier II Chinese city Jinan playing for the Shandong Golden Stars.

Beasley averaged a ludicrous 39/13/3/2/1 during his time with the Golden Stars and actually broke his own All-Star game scoring record, putting up 63 points. By the end of his impressive stint in China, a slew of NBA teams were once again showing interest in the recently crowned CBA foreign MVP.


Permanent return to the NBA

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers
Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers

The Rockets ended up grabbing Beasley at the end of the 2015-2016 season and he immediately became a spark off the bench that helped propel the Rockets to a playoff berth. Moreover, his clutch play in game 3 of their playoff series helped the Rockets pick up their only playoff win against the juggernaut Warriors.

His strong play off the bench drew the attention of several suitors and before the 2016-2017 season, Beasley was traded to the Grizzlies. However, he never truly got comfortable playing in his brief stint in Memphis as he battled injuries for the better part of the year.

Despite his injury plagued season, the Knicks signed Beasley for the 2017-2018 season and he proved to be one of their most dynamic scorers on the year. When asked to, Beasley filled in admirably for the injured superstar Kristaps Porzingis and brought an unprecedented scoring punch off the bench. With the Knicks, Beasley became the first NBA player EVER to come off the bench and put up 32 points and 12 rebounds in fewer than 25 minutes.

Heading into the 2018-2019 season, interest for Beasley was the highest it had been in nearly a decade. Beasley decided to reunite with former teammate LeBron James and sign with the revamped Los Angeles Lakers. Initially looked at as a laughing stock due to the fact the Lakers had signed a multitude of players known for having off-court issues, Beasley has quietly shown to be a revelation since seeing more minutes come his way.

Despite not even cracking the rotation until late November, Lakers players repeatedly expressed how crucial he was to the locker room and development of young players during his extended leave to take care of his mother. Unfortunately, Beasley's mother succumbed to her battle with cancer in late December, but by January 4th, he was back with the team. Since returning, Beasley has been a hyper-effective bench scorer and a key reason as to why the Lakers have been able to tread water without LeBron James.

Once regarded as such a pariah around the league that he was run off to China, Beasley is a poster-child for perseverance. Despite the multiple run-ins with the law, being waived time and time again, and being forced to prove himself all over againhalfway around the world; Michael Beasley never gave up.

Now, at the age of 30, NBA players and executives alike are seeing the professional discipline and leadership they hoped Beasley would learn nearly a decade ago. This is no doubt the culmination of Beasley's innumerable set-backs and his ability to overcome the hurdles thrown his way. While it may have taken him a bit longer to get there than expected, Michael Beasley has finally carved out a home for himself in the NBA.

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Anthony Koon
ANALYST
A former multi-sport athlete turned writer, Anthony has a passion for covering major American sports. When he isn't watching or writing about a game, you can find him out on the golf course shanking his drives. MLB-NBA-NFL-NHL
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