Denver Nuggets’ Malik Beasley shines in brief, but clutch cameo

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

Draped in a white hoodie, Malik Beasley was footsteps away from quietly exiting out of the Nuggets’ locker room before being stopped by the media to answer a few questions about his six points in the fourth quarter. Despite only playing 49 minutes in the month of November prior to Sunday’s 116-104 win over the Phoenix Suns, Beasley didn’t elaborate much about his role in his availability. Instead, his focus was on team success.

“It was so good to bring energy, especially to get a win – that’s the most important thing,” Beasley said.

After the game, several of Beasley’s teammates voiced their appreciation of the 22-year-old staying engaged and being ready for his opportunity.

“I’m impressed how he’s handled his current situation,” Paul Millsap said after the game. “Being a main guy that’s coming off the bench to a guy who hasn’t been playing -- for him to handle it as well as he has, kudos and I tip my hat off to him.”

Millsap added, “Being at that age and understanding that your opportunity is going to come back around. Being ready for that and he’s shown he can do that.”

Last season, Malik Beasley was one of the NBA’s most improved players as he saw his scoring go from 3.2 points a game the previous season to 11.3. He was also one of the league’s top deep threats as he converted at an impressive 40.2 percent – good for 16th in the NBA. This season, due to a combination of factors, Beasley hasn’t been able to cement his place in the rotation. Since his return from a two-game absence with an illness, playing time has been limited. He’s currently averaging 5.9 points in 15 minutes per game, playing in 10 of the Nuggets’ 15 games. Although Beasley received two DNPs in the Nuggets’ last two contests, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone insisted he was waiting for the right moment to reincorporate the backup shooting guard into the rotation.

“Malik Beasley was getting rotation minutes, now he hasn’t played in the last three. [The message is to] stay ready,” Malone said Friday prior to the game against the Celtics. “I’ve got to do my job to keep these guys engaged, communicate with them and let them know I’m going to give them another opportunity.”

Beasley didn’t disappoint on Sunday. Entering the game late in the third quarter, Beasley’s ability to stretch the floor made an impact for the Nuggets. His first three in the fourth quarter broke an 83-83 tie when the Suns were appearing to fight their way back into the game. His second would spark a 10-4 run that would essentially ice the game for Denver.

“Very impressed, he hit two big threes for us and his energy, he was flying around. For him not to be playing for a while and give that kind of energy, that was huge for us,” Will Barton III said.

Beasley isn’t the only Nuggets’ player to see time in and out of the team’s rotation. Torrey Craig, a starter throughout the 2019 playoffs, Michael Porter Jr., a highly-touted 2018 lottery pick and Juancho Hernangómez, a gold medal winner with Spain at the World Cup this summer, have all seen their minutes fluctuate throughout the early part of the season. What has helped the Nuggets get off to a 12-3 start this season is the buy-in. The willingness to accept evolving roles in order to deliver on sky-high expectations this season.

“Coming into the year, we knew some guys were going to have to sacrifice and maybe give up having a bigger role that they would have another team. But that’s what I like about this team,” Barton III explained. “Everyone stays ready, everyone still cheers for each other and when their number is called they go out there and compete.”

After Beasley hit his second three-pointer, which gave Denver a four-point lead, Phoenix’s head coach Monty Williams called a timeout. As Beasley celebrated the play, Monte Morris chest bumped him. Then the Nuggets bench and Malone all proceeded to congratulate Beasley at midcourt. It was a moment that proved just how strong the basketball culture is in Denver.

“It meant a lot,” Beasley said. “To help the team out was the most important thing to me.”

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