MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A lot of people have a lot of opinions on Michael Beasley’s NBA career and on Beasley himself. After six seasons, his career has come nowhere near the expectation set by his freshman season at Kansas State.
Judge his game and judge his off-the-court docket all you want. But at all costs, stay out of his mind, his positive, often-rambling, intense, convincing and convicted mind.
"I see myself as the Hulk, big green, strong, just can beat everybody up," he said at Grizzlies media day. "I’m just an easygoing guy, man. Made mistakes, just like everybody, but … um, I’m me. That’s it."
If he doesn’t make the Grizzlies’ roster, at least Beasley will go out with one epic — and weirdly thought provoking — media gathering.
The No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft is entering his seventh year in the league — with his fourth team. After a college career that had top lottery teams salivating and losing sleep between Beasley and Derrick Rose, no one would have bet Beasley would be answering questions in 2014 about a well-traveled NBA career brought on as much by marijuana allegations as inconsistent and dwindling numbers.
"I definitely feel like I have something to prove, but we’re knocking on a decade now," Beasley said. "So, at this point I just want to play basketball.
"If you feel like I have anything to prove to you, then I guess voice it, but as far as me and my fans, my goals, my team goals, team goals for me, I’m comfortable with them. I’m just here to play basketball."
At K-State, Beasley scored 26.2 points per game and averaged 12.4 rebounds, a number no one in Big 12 history had ever reached. His 866 points and 408 rebounds are third and second among all freshmen in NCAA history. He was an All-American and National Player of the Year.
But his NBA career has been an off-the-court story. In August, the Miami Heat chose not to bring him back. It was his second stint there. Pat Riley told the Sun Sentinel it was partly not to put Beasley in a position of possibly not playing.
Not playing? This guy was a star in college. Then the NBA happened. He had his fourth marijuana run-in prior to last season. That got him cut by the Suns.
Now, he can only hope to be the final piece of the puzzle for the Grizzlies. Newspapers, television stations and every random credentialed blogger should hope the same. Just to hear him talk.
Asked if he would have thought he’d be uttering those words this far along in his career, Beasley admits — a sort of interrupting-the-question-to-admit — he didn’t see his NBA career where it is now. He has shown flashes, 19.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game with Minnesota in 2010-11. Both numbers dropped each year since. So have his minutes. He’s started every game only twice, and only 29 times in his last 177 games.
"Different paths to the top of the mountain," Beasley said. "When you get there, it’s one view. My road, my career, has not been beautiful, but I’m here to look forward and take hold of this opportunity."
His .499 field goal percentage a season ago was a career high. He played only 15 minutes per game, but it could be a start, a re-start. He’s only 25.
"You haven’t seen it all in a row (laughs), but I feel like it’s been spurts where I’ve given it all I have," Beasley said. "The main part of my game I would like everyone to see is the mental part. Well, you can’t really see it, but just the fact that I’m learning and still growing as a player."
Memphis has one open spot. It could be Beasley’s. But it could also be another camp invitee’s. Beasley has played at small forward and power forward, depending on system. He’s open to any position. And he seems to honestly think he can play any of them.
"Three, four, two, five, one," he said. "Six?"
No matter where he plays, Beasley will be seen as a bust unless he does something LeBron-like.
"I feel like people look at everybody wrong, everybody," he said. "I feel like we’re all judged, for the worst, no matter who you are or what you did, or your accolades in this life, on the court or off, the money you made, the friends you’ve made, the friends you’ve lost. Everybody’s perceived differently."
Pointing at a reporter, he said: "I say that, you see him different than I see him, whether that’s good or bad, it’s just the way life is. So, I can’t sit here and cry and I can’t sit here and mope and I can’t sit here and be mad because you guys see me differently than I see myself. It’s life. It’s life.
"People that know me know I’m a kind-hearted guy. And the people that don’t, hopefully they will."
Beasley sees himself as The Hulk, but also a father of a 5-year-old and 1-year-old.
"My whole life is basketball. Well, my whole life was basketball. I’m a father first now. So, my perception through my eyes is definitely different through your eyes," Beasley said. "A lot of people don’t know that I’m a father. A lot of people don’t know that I wake up every day at 6 a.m. and take kids to school and pick them up and make lunch and do hair."
Pausing, feeling the need to explain that.
"I do females’ hair, my daughter’s hair. You know, see, so. So now y’all starting to … you know."
He says he isn’t concerned with proving anything to anyone, except his kids.
"I got little ones that I want to teach the right way, don’t judge a book by its cover," he said. "As long as I can teach my kids that, I’m fine with that. I’m really not into changing the world."
Beasley would be the go-to guy for mics begging for his perception, win or lose, whether he played or not.
"I’ve learned you can’t be as free-minded as you want because of society. I’ve learned, I mean, I’ve learned a lot, man. Ups, downs, I think overall, I’ve learned how to be a better me, to stop, and I use this loosely, to stop really caring so much about other’s perceptions," Beasley said.
"All I can do is worry about what I can control about. And everything I can’t, I just can’t. So, I’ve learned to accept me for who I am, to look in the mirror and smile and not really care about who else doesn’t like me, or likes me, or .."
Grizzlies PR had to cut the interview to make room for center Marc Gasol.
"Yeeees!" Beasley exclaimed.
Here’s hoping for many more microphones in front of B-Easy.