Your favorite player’s favorite player warms up differently.
It’s not that Michael Beasley, one hour before tip, is doing some crazy pregame routine. It’s just the way he goes about getting his shots up doesn’t look like a lot of other players.
Beasley’s the one rocking a full uniform with a hoodie on like he’s Carmelo Anthony. Bouncing around, bopping to the beat of the Madison Square Garden PA system, singing along to parts of almost every song. Plenty of guys don headphones during this time, but Beasley doesn’t. He takes it all in while he takes his shots—first some free throws and mid-range jumpers, before moving to the corner and working his way around the arc. Rep after rep, Knicks assistant Steve Senior feeds Beasley who mimics a move, elevates his 6’9” frame, launches a silky smooth shot with crazy backspin from his left hand, and, more times than not, watches the ball rip through the net.
And that’s when you notice the smile. Beasley’s grinning ear to ear. He can’t suppress it. When he’s putting the ball in the basket, it transforms him, even when it doesn’t matter. None of his teammates, or the Spurs warming up on the opposite side of the court on a chilly early January evening, are showing a tenth of the enthusiasm Beasley’s showing getting up his shots.
“Every shot I shoot I’ve shot a million times in my lifetime,” says Beasley.
And if you haven’t been paying attention recently, the offensive enigma has been draining a lot of them over the last month. Unexpectedly, Beasley’s become an epiphany off the bench for a Knicks squad that’s supposed to be rebuilding but instead finds itself on the fringe of the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture.
Signing with the Knicks this past August, Beasley came to New York not entirely sure how he’d fit in and for reasons that weren’t strictly basketball related. The No. 2 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft wanted to change the narrative on his career entering his 10th season. A player widely respected and liked among his peers is among the most misunderstood—and too often mischaracterized, in his opinion—by coaches, executives, and fans.
“I’m not actually a bad guy,” Beasley told Complex back in September.
When your career is arguably more well known for its off-the-court troubles rather than living up to the hype of being the player selected just after Derrick Rose, that’s kind of expected.
And while perception doesn’t necessarily equal reality, especially now at age 29, Beasley’s stoner/troublemaker rep still precedes him. There was the marijuana incident during his NBA rookie symposium. Driving with a suspended license and a loaded gun in 2013 was followed seven months later by an arrest on suspicion of possession of marijuana. Most significantly, an accusation of sexual assault and kidnapping in 2013 never resulted in any charges. So Beasley’s gotten himself into a few things over the years, but it’s been almost half a decade since his last run in with trouble and he made a conscious decision heading into the 2017-18 campaign to prove the shenanigans are a behind him.
“I wanted to re-brand myself just as a morally wholesome person, a family-oriented guy,” Beasley said. “That’s what I want people to know. My perception is this party animal, drug addict, whatever it is. It’s really the total opposite.”
There were clashes with coaches and organizations, most notably the Heat and head coach Erik Spoelstra, who Beasley claims could have believed in him more during his multiple stints in South Beach. But Beasley’s chosen to focus on family and the future rather than past beefs. These days, Beasley has his kids in tow whenever possible, but he’s still quirky as ever. He wears different colored nail polish and this past summer was caught walking the streets of New York with watches strapped to his ankles in a fashion statement only the wrist-obsessed Migos could appreciate. Yes, he will still say some wild things like his infamous interview with SNY’s Taylor Rooks, but don’t get it confused.
“The thing I get most is, and I hate it, I have conversations with random people and [they say] ‘You’re not at all what we thought you were. You’re so intellectual,’” Beasley said. “What, you thought I was retarded? It’s not your fault, it’s my fault.”
What’s been most surprising about Big Apple Beasley is his importance to the Knicks. Beasley signed with New York after a good run with the Bucks last year, but when he joined the Knicks—they still featured Carmelo Anthony—his role was murky at best. Putting up similar numbers like he did in Milwaukee (9.4 ppg, 3.4 bpg, 16.7 mpg) would be great, but the Knicks probably never envisioned him leading the team in scoring seven times, including a 32-point performance in a win over the Celtics on national TV where the Madison Square Garden faithful serenaded him with MVP chants.
“It’s nice to hear, but I’m pretty sure it’s for KP,” Beasley said.
On a night when Kristaps Porzingis shot a dreadful 0-of-11 from the field and didn’t even play the fourth quarter, Beasley was the reason the Knicks beat one of the East’s best squads. For the season, he's averaging 12.0 points over 18.6 minutes per game. But since December 12, he’s averaging 18.4 points over 24.7 minutes a night. In half of those 14 games, he's poured in at least 20.
“He’s bailing us out a lot of times, just playing one-on-one, creating something,” Porzingis told reporters after the Knicks overtime loss to the Heat last week. “We can’t keep doing that for long, but a lot of times he does save us.”
"My perception is this party animal, drug addict, whatever it is. It’s really the total opposite.”
Beasley calls himself your favorite player’s favorite player and when you see him do his thing—cooking up defenses with his impressive offensive arsenal—you get it. “That boy good,” teammate Lance Thomas kept repeating in the locker room while Beasley talked to reporters following the win over the Celtics. Beasley can score from anywhere, on just about anyone, and he does it so effortlessly that it sometimes looks like he's barely trying. Those sleepy eyes and the chill demeanor throws some people off. Defense will never be Beasley's strong suit but when he’s carving up opposing squads from all angles, coaches will put up with it.
“Mike can do a lot of things with the ball,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He was the second pick in the draft years ago. He’s talented.”
Talented but perplexing. The Knicks are his sixth team, only once has he averaged more than 15 points a game for a season, and other than making the All-Rookie First Team in 2009, Beasley hasn’t sniffed any other individual accolades during his NBA career. With the bullshit that followed him through his early years in the league seemingly behind him, maybe he’s finally found the right spot in New York. If he keeps scoring like this off the bench, he’ll get some Sixth Man of the Year love at the end of the year—even though Clippers super sub Lou Williams has already wrapped up the award half way through the season—and maybe Beasley can parlay that into the hefty contract that has eluded him so far.
After the Celtics game, Beasley was asked when he first started feeling the hot hand. He offered up a classic response.
“January 9, 1989,” he said.
That’s Beasley’s birthday, and he could only stifle his smile for approximately half a second when he said it. Your favorite player’s favorite player is doing it his way—will always do it his way—and appropriately enough that’s happening in the Big Apple right now. Forget blasting Cardi B and 21 Savage, the Garden might have to start playing a little Frank Sinatra pregame when Beasley's doing his thing.