MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When the Minnesota Timberwolves are at full strength, Michael Beasley just might be their most naturally talented player.
But after two up-and-down seasons with the Wolves, there’s no guarantee Beasley will return for another. His contract requires the team to extend him a qualifying offer of slightly more than $8 million to retain his rights. If the Wolves decline, as expected, he will become a 23-year-old unrestricted free agent.
Beasley spoke optimistically about his future here, in his typically soft, easygoing manner.
“I’m not really putting too much thought into it, not really putting too much energy into it, because it’s one of those things that I can’t control,” Beasley said as the team wrapped up practices last week. “I’m going to approach my summer as if I’m coming back next season, and I’m going to try to come back in the best shape I can, come back the best player I can be.”
His plan is to continue his summer work in Los Angeles with former Lakers standout Norm Nixon, who has become a mentor of sorts to Beasley, the second overall pick in the 2008 draft by Miami.
Work is the operative word, according to the grueling, ambitious plan he laid out.
“Shoot a zillion jump shots a day. Dribble a million minutes a day. Just work on being an all-around player, from rebounding to defending to blocking shots to stealing basketballs to scoring to playmaking,” Beasley said, then repeating for emphasis: “Just working on being an all-around great player. Not just a scorer, not just a defender, not just a rebounder. Just being an all-around great player.”
He added: “If anybody questions my conditioning I challenge them to come and work out with me for a day. It’s tough. I go four times a day. I go at 6 a.m. on the track. After that we do boxing, jujitsu, all that. Then ballet. Then basketball. Three or four days out of the week we run five, six miles on the beach. Barefoot. From Santa Monica to Venice. Back up to Santa Monica.”
After being hindered by a sprained left ankle the year before, Beasley was bothered this past season by a sprained right foot and a strained left big toe. He played in only 47 of 66 games, and — with better players on the roster than during his first year with the Wolves — averaged just 23.1 minutes per game, a drop of more than nine. He shot a bit better from the field and cut down on his turnovers, but he finished with only 45 assists and never notched consecutive 20-point games.
After scoring 20 points or more in 32 of his 73 games the previous season, Beasley reached that mark only seven times in 2011-12.
Timberwolves general manager David Kahn declined to address the team’s interest in bringing him back but acknowledged sympathetically the “snake-bitten” nature of Beasley’s stint in Minnesota. Kahn also said he appreciated Beasley’s positive attitude about coming off the bench as sort of a designated scorer, though his obvious preference was to remain in the starting lineup.
“Both years, and I told Michael this a couple times recently, it is a shame that he got hurt,” Kahn said, adding: “His offensive game wasn’t there at the start, but I at least thought he was trying defensively and just applying himself with more rigor than he had the year before with the previous staff, and I was at least hopeful that maybe there is something here. And he got hurt again, and again.”
Beasley’s off-the-court behavior hasn’t helped his cause for contract security. Around 3 a.m. one night last June, he was ticketed for possessing marijuana and speeding in the Minneapolis suburb of Minnetonka. While playing for the Heat, Beasley has acknowledged, he twice violated the NBA’s drug policy and entered a treatment facility for a time in 2009.
It is worth considering, though, that the Wolves chose not to trade him before the deadline in March. They were in line for a playoff spot then, before Ricky Rubio went down, but they took the risk of losing Beasley for nothing rather than dealing him for a less-than-desired return.
Beasley, for his part, said he enjoyed playing for coach Rick Adelman.
“The style is lovely. Rick’s not one of those guys who just has one guy he’s going to go to all the time,” Beasley said. “Whoever is feeling it that night, whoever has his nose in it, whoever is playing the best on defense and rebounding the ball, that’s who’s going to get the ball. That’s who’s going to get touches. And it’s really up to you to keep that consistent.”
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)