Michael Beasley read it a couple of weeks ago. He can’t remember where he saw it, but the message of the article stuck with him.
“It said I was one-dimensional,” the Timberwolves forward said Friday. “It kind of made me upset. I just kind of want to show people that I can do more than just score the basketball.”
Maybe it was that story he read. Maybe it is the list of things Wolves coach Kurt Rambis and his staff work on with Beasley each day. Maybe it’s just the natural progression of a naturally talented player getting the opportunity, over and over again, at important times in basketball games.
But Beasley is doing more.
Exhibit A: The end of the Wolves game in Cleveland on Sunday, with the Wolves down a point and the ball in Beasley’s hands. Earlier this month, the lefthanded Beasley likely would have tried to drive to his left to get off a shot. He might have made it, too, or he might have had the ball swatted away by a team expecting it. Against the Cavaliers, Beasley drove right and scored on a layup.
Or take Monday’s game against New Orleans. Beasley got his points, 30 of them, but he also had a career-high seven assists on a night when several players, including rookie Wes Johnson, were hot.
It was just another sign Beasley is trying to round out his game. He is averaging 22.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
“Honestly, I’m just playing basketball,” he said. “I’m not trying to force it; it’s chess, not checkers. … Ultimately I just want to help my team win, whether it means scoring a million points, grabbing a million rebounds or blocking a million shots.”
His scoring, especially on a young Wolves team, will always be needed. Beasley is the one guy on the roster Rambis knows can create his own shot at the end of the game. The Wolves are 4-2 when Beasley scores 30 or more points, which he has done in two consecutive games.
But doing the other things well — passing, especially — will only make it easier for Beasley to score when needed.
“We’re working with him in a lot of areas,” Rambis said. “Being able to drive to his right, play on different spots of the floor; you can’t always put him on the same side and not expect other teams to make an adjustment. We’re working with him on his post-up game, and on his ability, not only to create a shot for himself but also a shot for somebody else.”
Like everything else on this team this season, it’s a process. Rambis agreed that Beasley did a great job of passing while picking up those seven assists, but he was quick to note there are other times when Beasley could do a much better job of moving the ball.
He does have all the requisite skills for the job of go-to player. “It’s someone who can shoot, somebody who can drive,” Rambis said. “Someone who can create a shot for somebody else, and also, if they get fouled, be able to go to the free-throw line and be able to knock down those shots. Those are the requirements.”
Gradually, glimpses of a more well-rounded game have been popping up. Beasley has been the go-to guy on his team at every level. Now he’s learning how to do it in the NBA.
“You have to let it happen, you can’t force it,” he said. “I’m sort of letting the defenses make mistakes, just playing with poise. My whole thing is not turning the ball over. I feel if we don’t turn the ball over, if I don’t turn the ball over, something good should happen, either a good shot, an assist, or we get fouled.”
Beasley doesn’t mind if he’s scoring the points or creating the opportunities.
“I want to get everybody involved,” he said. “When Darko [Milicic] wants to play, when Kevin [Love] is on his A-game, when Martell [Webster] is coming off the bench, when Luke [Ridnour] is knocking down jumpers, when Wes is hitting his three-balls, we have a lot of firepower. I just want to be that guy to jell it all together.”