(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)
Michael Beasley: Joining Lakers a 'Chance to be Part of Something Special'
When Michael Beasley received a phone call from Magic Johnson four or five days ago, he had to keep his emotions in check.
The President of Basketball Operations had been in contact with Beasley’s agent for weeks. Now was the time to sell the player on his vision for the Lakers’ roster.
Beasley was so excited that he had to put his phone on mute once or twice.
“(He’s) a guy I’ve dreamed of meeting my whole life,” Beasley said. “To play for him is surreal.”
In addition to playing for Johnson, Beasley will be suiting up with another all-time great: LeBron James.
This isn’t Beasley’s first campaign with the 14-time all-star, as they were teammates on the 2013-14 Miami Heat. Four years later, Beasley still considers James “like my older brother.”
The 29-year-old Beasley remains upset that their Miami squad lost to San Antonio in the NBA Finals that year. He came to Los Angeles for “the chance to be part of something special,” which he says starts with “No. 23.”
“He’s one of the few guys that doesn’t have to, but plays the game the right way,” Beasley said. “And not only knows, (but) wants to play the game the right way.”
Still, Beasley insists that the roster has much more to it than just James.
He has known Lance Stephenson since he was 14 or 15, and has played against Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee for years in the NBA.
The decade-long vet also thinks that coach Luke Walton “did a great job with the young guys last year,” labelling Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart as players with supreme potential.
And while he concedes that rough patches are to be expected and that it will “take a while to mesh everything together,” he has no patience for the narrative that the Lakers have an issue of too many players with outsized personalities.
“You have 14 guys other than LeBron James who know how to play basketball,” Beasley said. “And I think you have 29 teams overlooking the fact that they know how to play basketball.”
Beasley has certainly proven his own ability to play, especially when it comes to putting the ball in the bucket.
Used as a sixth man for most of last season, Beasley scored in bunches off the bench, averaging the NBA’s 11th-most points per minute (0.25).
But he wants to be known for more than his quick-heat offense.
“I just play,” Beasley said. “I wouldn’t say I’m headstrong or doing any one thing in particular. A lot of people would say that’s scoring, but I just play. Look for the open guy, run the floor, just try to have fun, let the game manifest itself.”
Yet that doesn’t mean the combo forward can’t start up the scoreboard in a hurry.
He shot 50.7 percent from the field last season — his third straight year hitting more than half his shots — despite attempting plenty of high-difficulty looks.
Beasley has excellent body control, allowing him to find the net while contorting himself and firing from odd angles.
“It really comes from doing a lot of core strength work and stuff like that,” he said. “It’s just another little edge that I figured out at a young age. You don’t always have to jump high — you can jump (to the) side and backwards sometimes.”
This is best seen in the non-restricted area of the paint, which is a typically low-percentage zone for most players. But Beasley shot 49.0 percent from there with the Knicks, ranking fourth in the entire NBA.
“I don’t see why that spot’s such a hard shot, to be completely honest,” Beasley laughed. “Maybe I’m just weird.”
Perhaps “unique” is a more accurate term for Beasley, who is excited to return to the city where he has lived in the past.
Sure, he is happy about the year-round sunshine (“I’m a Capricorn, so I don’t really get to celebrate my birthday too much.”) — but he more looking forward to showing what he can provide on and off the court.
This includes sharing his story of “perseverance” with the Lakers’ young core. The second-overall pick in 2008, Beasley has since played for six NBA teams and in China.
“Tomorrow exists no matter how good today is, no matter how bad today is,” Beasley said.
And he wants to empower his teammates on the floor as well, even if that means less playing time for himself.
“I’m not really here to beat anybody for minutes or play anymore than this guy,” Beasley said. “I’m here to help play a team game and do as much winning as I can.”
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