Michael Beasley has always been a talented but enigmatic basketball player. Fans tend to focus on the fact that Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball are former No. 2 selections in the draft and wonder when they will start to play like it.
So, too, was Beasley a No. 2 pick, chosen by the Miami Heat in 2008. In Beasley’s case, at age 30, some are still wondering if he will become a consistent contributor after largely coming short of meeting lofty expectations.
Along the way, he has played for the Heat with subsequent stops in Minnesota, Phoenix, Houston, Milwaukee, New York, and now with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Beasley has always played well, but not as well as expected when he entered the league. Combined with his reputation for moodiness and volatility, which may or may not be fair, he has never been able to find a real home.
Nearly everyone was surprised when Beasley chose to sign with the Lakers last summer. He had a solid season the year before with the Knicks, where he started 30 games and averaged 13.2 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor and 39.5 percent from three-point range. He also grabbed 5.6 rebounds per game.
So what motivated him to sign with the Lakers? Perhaps it was the allure of playing with LeBron James and perhaps contending for a title. Why were the Lakers interested in him? Because he could score, and the front office knew the team would need scorers.
The problem is, Beasley looked out of shape and out of sorts in preseason. When the regular season began, the team struggled and Beasley barely played. As the season unfolded, he was not even with the team much of the time. It was eventually announced that he was caring for his very ill mother, who passed away in December.
Since then, Beasley has looked like a new basketball player, and this past week he continued to play better and better. He scored double-digit points in the first three games of the week and eight points in only seven minutes in the horrific loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers to end the stretch.
To begin this past week, Beasley scored 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the Lakers’ solid win on the road in Dallas. He followed that up by making 9-of-13 shots and finishing with 19 points on his birthday, when the Lakers defeated the Detroit Pistons. Even in the ugly loss at Utah, Beasley did his part by contributing 17 points.
Beasley has a reputation for being a one-dimensional player who can only score. Yet, with the Lakers, he has defended and rebounded well. By all appearances, he has also been a good teammate and mentor to the younger players. Even when he was not playing, Beasley was genuinely cheering from the bench.
The Lakers have a flawed roster, as everyone knows by now. One of the flaws is the inability to get consistent scoring from the bench. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a good stretch but is again struggling, which was a problem for him earlier in the season. Lance Stephenson has been hot and cold all year and can’t realistically be counted on to provide a consistent scoring punch.
Josh Hart, who has been starting temporarily, has also struggled to score all season, much more than was expected. The Lakers’ rookies, who were thought to be able to stretch the floor, have been unable to contribute much so far.
Which is precisely why Beasley’s return could be a blessing for the team at precisely the right moment. Before his mother passed away last month, he had only played in 10 games all season. Now that he is back, he has scored well on a consistent basis and provided a clear spark off the bench every game.
If Beasley continues to play in this manner, he may prove to be a game changer down the stretch this season. He is a veteran who is not intimidated, and his scoring could invigorate a bench that was in desperate need of a boost.
The Lakers just finished an unusual week in which they won the first two games but lost the last two in a very ugly and depressing manner. Beasley was a consistent bright spot on a team that is in jeopardy of falling out of the playoff picture with James and Rajon Rondo still recovering from injury.
Beasley is playing at a high level right now at a time when the Lakers desperately need him. For his solid contributions the past four games, he is a worthy choice for Lakers Player of the Week.
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