INDIANAPOLIS – In the afterglow of what was the best game of his young professional career, Nuggets coach Michael Malone pulled Malik Beasley over on Saturday afternoon for a quick chat.
After complimenting the heady, confident play that resulted in Beasley’s 12 points in a season-high 28 minutes in a Nuggets’ win over Orlando on Friday night, Malone got down to business.
“I am putting you out there for your defense,” he told Beasley. “Anything you give us offensively is great, and I love it and I know you’re confident and you work hard on that, but don’t ever forget I’m playing you because of your ability to guard multiple positions.”
It was Beasley’s defensive tenacity that helped the Nuggets start to take control after facing an early deficit against the Magic. The second-year shooting guard was a plus-11 for the night, and says he’s been dialed-in on playing smarter on the defensive end from the start of the season.
“I think I’m being solid, not just reaching,” Beasley said. “Last year I was horrible on the weak side. I felt like teams were stating to isolated me on the single-side tag. But now I’m good at that. Just knowing personnel and studying the game. I’ve been watching film way more this year, and I think that’s taken me to another level.”
Malone focused on Beasley’s talent on that end.
“I’ve known that Malik Beasley not only has the physical talent to be a good defender, but more importantly Malik has the mental edge, the mental attitude and thought process to be a good defender,” Malone said. “And that’s what I think separates him from some other guys.”
But it’s not just Beasley’s defensive improvement that is notable.
Offensively against the Magic, he played with clarity. He read situations well. He did not allow Orlando to speed him up and make questionable decisions with his passing or take tough shots. He got to the spots he wanted on his terms and knocked down the attempts, going 5-of-9 from the field.
“It felt great,” Beasley said. “I got to my midrange and knocked a few down. The three opened up, plus teammates kept giving me the ball and telling me to shoot. I passed up a lot of shots tonight and coach was mad. I’ve just got to continue to keep working.”
Beasley’s improvement is not going unnoticed.
“I’m proud of him,” teammate Kenneth Faried said. “That’s my rook. I’ve always had his side, had his back just showing him the ropes trying to keep him calm and collected. And (was telling him) ‘hey, just work, just work. You’re going to get your opportunity, and when you do just explode and don’t look back.’ And (Friday night) he was able to do just that, hitting threes off the dribble, contested threes in guys’ face, getting his pullup game going, attacking the rim and making the right play. He didn’t get too nervous or too rattled.”
Reinforcing the positive: The Nuggets had a film session and short practice on Saturday morning in Indianapolis. Unlike the heart-to-heart meeting the team had a couple of days ago, this one centered on showing the good things the team had done in its Friday night victory.
Coach Michael Malone explained why.
“I learned a long time ago, as coaches you’re so prone to correcting mistakes…and you have to do that. But if you don’t also reward the positive and show the positive and help them understand why we won, and let them see it; I think they need to have positive reinforcement.
“Just like with my girls. I have two little girls. I can’t just be on them all the time and talk about all of the negative things that they are doing. If my daughter makes honor roll, I have to make sure I give her the love she deserves for doing that. Same thing with these guys. Reward them when they do the right job. … Last night was a great defensive effort obviously, and they saw why it was.”
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter