Former No. 2 overall draft pick Michael Beasley is eying a return to the NBA.
Before this season, Beasley played in the NBA’s Vegas Summer League with the Portland Trail Blazers and averaged 11.4 points on 44 percent shooting from the field and 45 percent from three-point range with 3.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 0.8 blocks in 22.7 minutes per game.
The 33-year old forward, who hired agent Charles Briscoe of Briscoe Sports Group, has been training in Miami with Ronnie Taylor. Beasley and his representation have been in contact with several teams recently, with the trade deadline nearing and the buyout market beginning shortly afterward.
Following a recent workout, Beasley spoke with HoopsHype about his goal to return to the NBA, his career over the years, dealing with personal losses of family members behind the scenes, and more.
You were going to play for the Nets in the bubble before your positive Covid test. What was going through your mind then when you were about to return to the NBA?
Michael Beasley: I got food poisoning in the bubble. I think my fourth or fifth day quarantining, I woke up one morning, and I threw up maybe 20 times. I had to go to the hospital. I found out I had COVID in the hospital. It just went south from there.
What have you been up to since then?
MB: I’ve been staying in the gym and keeping my head down, trying to be as positive as I can be. I’ve been staying around some good people. If you watch my Instagram, I work out with John Wall, Tyreke Evans, and whoever is in town. I try to keep my mind on the goal no matter how dark it gets or unrealistic it may seem. I have dreams, and I want to be somebody remembered that, if not for anything else, somebody that fought for my dreams. These last three years, I’ve been in the gym every day working on my craft, getting stronger, sharpening my jump shot, sharpening my handles, defense one-on-one, or five-on-five. I’ve become a student of the game again and have repeated that process.
Arnold Schwarzenegger had a quote when he was young and wanted to come to America. He didn’t know how. All he knew how to do was lift weights, so he was going to do as many curls as it took to get him to America. That’s kind of the mindset I have. I’m not sure how I’m going to get there, when, or if. All I know is if I get that call, I’m going to be ready.
Why should a team sign you?
MB: One, my scoring ability, which everybody knows. I think my mindset has never been put on display. I know the game so well on both sides of the ball. I want to show people that I can play defense, and I’m not just a scorer. I can impact the game in so many different ways.
When you see other veterans getting 10-day deals, what do you think of those guys coming back, and does it give you hope you’ll get another shot?
MB: 100 percent. I’m happy for those guys. A few of those guys I’ve been in the gym with these last few years. Brandon Knight. Mario Chalmers. I’m happy to see my friends that are good players get a chance. At the same time, it just motivates me more to go harder and keep going. It’s easy to just give up when you see something happen like this. I’m waiting for a call, and when it comes, I’ll be ready.
Is there a narrative out there about you that you don’t agree with or want to clarify?
MB: I don’t agree with any of them. I sit back, and I literally watch the whole world say what I think or say what they think I said or how they think I said it. That’s why I don’t really speak now. I’m not who people think I am. One narrative that I hate is that I rely on my talent without work. I put so much work, so much thought, and so much mental energy into my game, so many tears, so many mistakes, so many perfections, and repeats. To hear that people think that I rely just on talent or my career didn’t pan out because I didn’t work is one of the things that eat at me every day. It’s one of the reasons I stay in the gym and work harder. It’s just not true.
Are there times when you have a quote where you’re being funny, and people take it seriously and misconstrue it?
MB: Yes. I’m such a funny and sarcastic person. I’m so witty, so if you say something to me, I’ve got a joke for it. I’ve got a comeback for it. It’s the household I grew up in. A lot of times, people think I’m stupid or crazy. One, take a joke. Two, understand it. Three, I want to do a podcast and name it Let Me Finish. A lot of the time, I say whatever I’m saying, and people get hung over the first three or four words without letting me round it off. It creates a lot of misunderstandings.
What clicked in Minnesota your third year when it was your best statistical season?
MB: I had a coach that talked to me, Kurt Rambis. Even to this day, he still checks in on me. I think that’s been the difference for me since college. Frank (Martin) used to talk to me, ask what I thought of the game, and challenge me to do more. The first thing Rambis said to me when I got traded to Minnesota was when we were walking into training camp, and he said, “Who are the best two franchises in the last two decades?” I said, “The Bulls and the Lakers” at the time. He said, “What offense do they run?” I said, “The Triangle.” He said, “Who scored the most points?” I said, “The three.” He looked at me and said, “You’re going to be my three.” He put the responsibility in my hand. He trusted me to score the ball. I got injured a lot that season and tried to play through it and things like that. I was mad they fired Rambis. I thought that was a great building year. I thought that team with that system could’ve done a lot more before they cut it short. I had a coach that wasn’t scared of my opinion. Me and Kurt fought, sometimes during the season, but every time we fought, we came to an understanding, whether he was right or I was right, or we had to agree to disagree. I always trusted that he knew how to win.
How was it playing for the Knicks?
MB: The Knicks hurt my feelings. On the court, I had Kurt Rambis there. I think 15 or 20 games into the season, Kurt came to me and asked me if I thought I should be playing? I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Before I ask you why, every time you go on the floor, just show the coach why you should be playing.” I had something to play for. Off the court, nobody knows this, but I found out my mom had cancer going into training camp in New York. That was extra motivation. I used to drive down after every game and every practice to Baltimore and kick it with my mom.
New York hurt my feelings so badly. I really wanted to stay in New York for the rest of my career. I had a good year. We were losing, but I was a bright spot. I used to drive after every practice and every game or get on the train to see my mom because she had cancer. At the end of the season in the exit meeting, the flight home from the last game was when they fired Jeff Hornacek. They had Corey Gaines do our exit meetings. I walk in, and he runs down my stats for the year. In my mind, I’m like you finally did it, got a nice contract, and solidified yourself a home for at least three years.
If you look at my career, even dating back to high school, I’ve never played anywhere more than two years. I patted myself on the back, walking into the exit meeting with Steve Mills. I walk into the meeting, and they look at me to my face and say, “Michael Beasley is one of the most talented players that ever put on a Knicks jersey, but how does that help us win?” This is one of the times I wish I had more confidence because I was literally lost for words. That confused me. After maybe 20 or 30 seconds of silence, they said some positive things, and they’d keep in contact with my agent. That wasn’t the part that hurt my feelings. I was so close to my mom, and my dream was to play in DC and be home, but being in New York was as good as I could get to playing in DC as far as being close to my mom.
Free agency came up, and we were negotiating. While we were negotiating my contract, it shocked me that they didn’t want to give me more than one year. They wanted me to come back to New York on a veteran minimum deal. I was like, that’s not fair. At least give me $1 million more. While we were negotiating, they signed Mario Hezonja. They gave him my number, and they gave him the contract I asked for, which forced me to sign in Los Angeles with the Lakers. People think I wanted to go sign in Los Angeles. Not that I didn’t, but Los Angeles and Oklahoma City were the other teams that wanted me. To fly six hours away after being a three or four-hour drive away from my mom that took a toll on me. That’s the part that hurt my feelings. I didn’t deserve that, and she didn’t deserve that.
Is part of you trying to get back into the league for your mom?
MB: 100 percent. There are things I should’ve done that she should’ve been able to see. That’s not my fault, that’s not her fault, that’s nobody’s fault. Going forward, I’m trying to give her a show.
What have you thought of your career overall to this point?
MB: Honestly speaking, I think people don’t disrespect but overlook what I’ve been able to do in the amount of time I’ve been able to do it in. If you look at my per 36 numbers for every team, they’re All-Star caliber numbers (19.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists). My argument for my career is I’ve never been given a chance to play extra minutes.
Off the court, my mom died when I was playing for the Lakers. I fought through that, and I came back. My cousin died the game I forgot my shorts in Oklahoma. I was battling that day, trying to fight through it. I wanted to go to the funeral, but I was already gone when my mom died. I just wanted to be there for the team, and the whole world just laughed at me. My whole career, I’ve never been given a chance to show who I really am, how I can really play, show that I can really win and be somebody. The whole world laughed at me. It hurt my feelings. I’m not going to lie.
Did you say anything to anyone at the time?
MB: No. I don’t like pity. My mom was going through cancer, maybe a year before she told the family. She was being strong. I was trying to be strong. I was trying to show her I could be tough. That sh*t was hard. I’m not going to lie. When it happened, it felt like an excuse. That’s why I never said anything. I thought it would die over (referring to the jokes about forgetting his shorts). That sh*t didn’t die. Every f*cking year that sh*t lived on. Even my close friends don’t even know. I let them have the joke because if it makes people happy, it makes people happy, rather than going around and making people sad.
Knowing all this stuff now, is there any advice you’d give yourself earlier in your career or do differently?
MB: I would believe in myself. I’ve been battling confidence issues my whole life. Everybody’s voices, everybody’s negative opinions. I was 19, and they were expecting me to be a grown-up. I wish I had the mindset and the balls to have fun and play basketball the way I know how to play basketball.
Regarding confidence on the basketball court, it seemed like you could do a lot from shooting, rebounding, and why you were a high pick. When you said confidence, was that on the court or outside as a person?
MB: Both. It started on the court. The first thing that happened to me when I got to the NBA was everyone told me what I couldn’t do. That’s literally all I’ve heard for my entire career. Even if I couldn’t do things, which I didn’t agree with, what about the things that I could do? Can we make those things better or work around that? Every other player you build around, you build around how they play.
I used to talk to my therapist about the yips. I forgot how to shoot a jump shot. I got injured in Minnesota one year. Everybody laughed at this too. I reached for a ball Kevin Love threw, and my finger peeled back, and I had to get 10 or 11 stitches in my index finger on my shooting hand. That stiffened my hand up for about 18 months. I had to learn how to shoot a jump shot again. Even before that, the jump shots I took, everybody would say, “Bro, those are the worst shots in the league. You’re taking long twos.” These are the same shots I grew up watching Kobe Bryant take. I’m not taking shots different than Kobe would take, or what Michael Jordan would take. That did something to my brain that I didn’t know what shot to shoot. I literally just started playing not to f*ck up.
At 33, do you still feel like you have gas left in the tank?
MB: I’m better than I’ve ever been. The last three years, 100 percent, I wish I could’ve been playing basketball at some level. One thing that it’s done for me is it’s given me a chance to remember who I am, fall in love with that person again, and teach him how to play basketball and learn from what he’s learned over the years. These last three years, I’ve just been perfecting my craft on every level on both sides of the ball.
Who have you been training with?
MB: I work out exclusively with Ronnie Taylor at Taylor Sports Group. Through him, summer times, we have the best runs in Miami. We have Bam Adebayo, Donovan Mitchell, PJ Tucker, James Harden. Every player comes through here. I still get my runs in, my work in, and my camaraderie in. The pandemic extended the rookie summer coming out of college a little longer. It gave me more time in the gym with Jonathan Kuminga, Desmond Bane, James bouknight, Tre Mann, and Isaiah Todd.