6.25.2008

How Many Angles in a Vortex?



Note: I've got a new Sporting News column on the draft and gender, or something. This is longer.

When we were batting around draft ideas, Ty Keenan suggested that Mayo (and to some degree, Walker) were in the unique position of having their value peak, crash, and then rise up from the ashes in redemption—all before the draft prognostication even really got under way. We all decided that this was a function of undue hype, a circumstantial shutdown of the wild and woolly HS days. They had to come crashing down before, in this new climate, either could be viewed fairly. And then, the positives stood out again, the very ones that had set them on a pedestal in the first place. This is rational, folks, if a little awkward.

But the Michael Beasley's ride through the pre-draft rapids has been a lot less transparent. Even heading into the NCAAs, most people had Beasley penciled in at number one. Sure, there was the shady recruiting stuff, that WaPo piece, and rumors of a bad attitude and poor work ethic. Yet his one-and-done campaign had been such a freight-train of talent, his game so insistent, and so much of the negativity quelled by his on-court progress and words from the behind the scenes, that Beasleys PR problems seemed a thing of the past.

THEN: Rose's tournament ascendency, the "character issues" revisited as the draft became more real, and the lukewarmness of Paxson and Riley. Suddenly, Beasley was again a bad seed, this draft's problem child, Derrick Coleman redux just waiting to happen.



Or was he? In a blink, Beasley made his now-famous "I'm just a kid" comments. Was he dead serious all the time? No, but he'd probably grow out of that, and anyway, wasn't it his right to have a personality? This site and others rushed to brand him the new Gilbert Arenas. A vote for Beasley was a vote against staid hypocrisy, against buttondown orthodoxy in the way the NBA treats and represents its players. He became a martyr, fighting valiantly—if somewhat obliviously—to let players be themselves, to allow them to grow up in public instead of damaging them by expecting too much, too soon. Where Kwame Brown lay in a lifeless heap, Beasley planted a tree and saw it flower.

Stay with me here: The backlash was that, fine, Beasley's a kid, and a light-hearted one at that. And yet the truly elite teens—like, for instance, his best friend Kevin Durant—have that inner fire evident from the get-go. There are growing pains, even moments of weakness when the weight of expectations causes buckle. However, this line of work means working past these episodes, not glorifying them. Riley's disdain for Beasley's goofiness may have been an overreaction, and perhaps too moralistic. However, Riles does know basketball, and whether or not Bealey was defiling the game, it's safe to say that a failure to keep a straight face in the workout told us something about Beasley's disposition. Not a bad guy, but a space cadet, which sometimes seems like a liability in, say, Arenas.

At this point, there was talk of Beasley dropping to #3, or at least being dismissively traded by Miami (way to keep that chip shiny!). And thus, another trope of Arenas reared its head: The feisty underdog. Damn it, Michael Beasley would prove the likes of Riley wrong. He would tear up the league, and show the establishment how wrong it had been to ever doubt him. That's why you have ESPN picking him to blog his pre-draft experience, as well as make short videos brimming with both vitality and slightly unsettling unpredictability. The cult of Beasley was in full swing, and somehow, was as much about sympathy, a feeling for the warm and fuzzy victim who just wanted to have fun, as the bad-ass he portrayed on the court.



There was an imbalance there, and it's being corrected now. As of today, Michael Beasley isn't the king of the freaks any more, he's a misunderstood People's Champ who, when you get down to it, is all about wreaking havoc on the court. All the silly stuff, that's a most elevated version of swagger, pitched so high and relentless that resolves into a reckless calm. He's Amare, and maybe even The Wire's Snoop. Beasley will be on a vendatta from the second he hits the court, one without any of the eccentricity or elegance of Gil's. There will be dunks, and blocks, and threes over unsuspecting PFs. In terms of demonstrativeness, Garnett had better watch his back. He'll be a sneaker magnet, in part because he's a laugh riot (PREDICTION: If he went Nike, the ying/yang ads with him and Durant would be instant classics), but also because of the dynamism of his game.

Here's where we hit the inevitable question: Who is the real Michael Beasley? Of course I don't really know, and with someone who hasn't even hit the league yet, there's that much less to go on. But I suspect he's a combination of all these things, a series of contradictions—some imposed upon him, some stubborn and internal. It's a testament to his charisma, or maybe just the laziness of a media that has covered him like a political candidate, that he's been subject to this parade of monolithic characterizations. He's an icon waiting to happen, but paradoxically, we might have to settle for one with murky edges. In the two months since the lottery, Beasley's already gone through a Bowie-like parade of makeovers. That has to be reason to stop and reasses our mode of judgment.

What's more, there obviously a connection between these conflicting perception of him and his game. No one's labeling him a tweener, but Beasley's hardly getting the kind of "change the game" love that fell Durant's way. And yet, is he any less confounding, or versatile, a player? Sure, he can't play guard, but he's already more physical than KD will ever be. I don't want to say that the uncertainty his style causes has created a persona in flux, but it's pretty safe to say that the inverse is true. And that, if there is some chicken/egg at play here, it might be a long time before these questions get settled.

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39 Comments:

At 6/25/2008 4:36 PM, Blogger goathair said...

Another thing that probably works against Beasley is his eyes. Just like Sam Perkins, he'll never look fired up about anything. That probably drives Riley nuts.

 
At 6/25/2008 5:02 PM, Blogger dickey simpkins said...

I think the snubbing of Chicago will do well for him. Like you said, he's going to have that chip on his shoulder. The guy was the no brainer 1st pick for a whole year, then Rose just came along and stole the mantle from him. It will be interesting to see how the quiet, humble Rose asserts himself as a team leader in the lead by example roster of the Bulls, while Beasley has the potential to rejuvanate a sagging franchise like Memphis or Seattle with his vibrance and pairing with other high octane players (Gay, Durant)

 
At 6/25/2008 5:33 PM, Blogger ItTakesAThiefToCatchAThief said...

Well said, Shoals.


And forget Riles - Paxson's gonna rue the day he passed Beazy.

 
At 6/25/2008 5:44 PM, Blogger Louie Bones said...

Particularly fantastic pics with this piece.

 
At 6/25/2008 5:46 PM, Blogger Ritchie said...

Beasley as feisty underdog is a stretch, no? The lowest he could fall in the draft is third. Everyone agrees he's going to be a menace to opposing defenses, the question is whether he'll also be a menace to his own coach's sanity. That just doesn't say feisty underdog to me. Gil was a feisty underdog because his name got called in the second round and he had to prove not just his stardom but that he had a place in the league. Most second rounders never make it onto a league court in the first place. Even if Beasley falls to number 3, he still comes into the league as a star. The third slot even has a bit of a special reverence because anything that is remotely connected to Mike has a lingering vestige of his aura.

 
At 6/25/2008 5:54 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

All of these incarnations are something of a stretch. The point is that he's now seen as having to prove himself, has doubters to disprove, and is unfairly persecuted. And, as such, has struck a cord.

At this point, it seems like no one particularly wants to draft him.

 
At 6/25/2008 6:01 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 6/25/2008 6:02 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

Yeah, last year it was said that Seattle had the easiest draft in the world - just take whichever of the Oden/Durant pairing was left. I felt like Sam Presti was snickering to himself the whole time. This year, Riles seems to be praying to himself, "If Paxson takes Rose, is Beasley so good that I have to actually have to draft the fucker?"

 
At 6/25/2008 6:33 PM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

This is entirely unsubstantiated speculating, but suppose you were Chicago and felt good about Beasley being the best talent in the draft but you knew that Riles would be too much of a sourpuss to like him. Wouldn't the smart thing to do be to act like you were completely sold on Rose and then at the last second call up Miami and offer a swap for a few mill in considerations and/or a future pick or two? Not saying it's going to happen, just that I'd be amused if it did. I fully hope for/expect some craziness tomorrow.

 
At 6/25/2008 6:41 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

Yes, yes, yes and yes. I was saying yesterday how all these doubters will ignite the beast within Be Easy. I really want him to become the star of this draft, if for no other reason than all the haterade GMs and scouts are spilling. He's already one of my favorite players. here's hoping he doesn't wind up in 'sota.

 
At 6/25/2008 6:47 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Chicago and Miami don't want him, I've read that Minnesota wants to move down, the Sonics SHOULD move up and get him but he might not be a Presti guy (and like Bennett wants to risk a buzz-heavy Sonics team in Seattle), the Knicks want Mayo. I can't remember where, but I've seen exactly one place that claimed the Grizz wanted to move up and take him.

Just rumors, I know, but this isn't supposed to happen to someone who was supposed to go #1 overall.

 
At 6/25/2008 6:53 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

he actuallyseems smart enough to see all this happening, not change a thing off the court, and absolutely dominate the games just to spite the doubters.

 
At 6/25/2008 6:53 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Oops, hadn't looked at ESPN since this morning. Chad Ford on the homeless Beasley. Best possibility: Riles send Beasley and Marion to the Clipper for Brand and the #7.

 
At 6/25/2008 7:08 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

Beasley and Marion in the same frontcourt would be goddamn terrifying, and in LA no less. Those Clipper-Laker battles against Lamar and Pau would be entertaining.

 
At 6/25/2008 9:22 PM, OpenID tredecimal said...

(and like Bennett wants to risk a buzz-heavy Sonics team in Seattle)

oh man, if he makes them take @ #4 another seven foot stiff who has 15 minutes experience with organized basketball...JUST SO THE TEAM WONT KEEP/GET A FOLLOWING.. that's it, CB needs to be dragged from his home and given a prostate exam with a rotary hammer.

speaking of seven foot stiffs, off the top of my dome, i'm not coming up with any projects who actually panned out. (and by 'panned out', I mean eventually becoming as good as say, Brad Miller or Udonis Haslem*) Is the best you can hope for with a project that he becomes as good as... DJ Mbenga?!? Hell, I'd figure it's easier to find the hidden Montas...

*btw, both of whom I wouldn't consider projects as they played substantial minutes in college, but they were both undrafted and became productive players. basically 'project' = 'saer sene'/'anyone who hasn't been playing basketball for 75% of their life'

 
At 6/25/2008 9:59 PM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

Ya, this is getting ridiculous. I think where my previous comment was coming from is that the only way I can be ok with/make sense of this apparent lack of interest is if it was actually deceitful maneuvering all along. You're absolutely right that sure things like Beasley have no business being surrounded by this much uncertainty, and at this point any destination seems plausible. Hell, Pritchard could end up swapping half the draft for him and field the 2012 Olympic team and it wouldn't shock me.

@tredecimal: wasn't Bynum widely characterized as a "project"? Didn't he come to the game pretty late in life? Hence, MONAB.

 
At 6/25/2008 10:17 PM, Blogger Louie Bones said...

Mmm, the eve of destruction.
Baron rumored to Detroit, TJ for Jermaine, and more on the way...

 
At 6/25/2008 10:26 PM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

Ugh. Larry Brown would move up to get Hibbert; you wouldn't want to have too many quick athletes or anything.

Also, I have a feeling we won't be able to recognize the league come Friday and am pretty excited about this.

 
At 6/25/2008 10:59 PM, Blogger Pravato said...

Might be the most creative and well written blog I've come across on the net-

Beasley will be so good D Wade will be his side kick by next year
http://www.collegefastbreak.com/

 
At 6/26/2008 12:01 AM, Blogger Jack Barnett said...

Nice post. Love the Jeff Wall Photo.

 
At 6/26/2008 12:34 AM, Blogger The Electric Zarko said...

The Boom Dizzle/TMNT for Billups/Sheedy Sheed makes me all kinds of uncomfortable.

As much as I'd like to see Sheed on the Warriors (because, like Captain Jack, he's one of those perfect fits, just an aesthetic blinder), the Dubs would be giving up the two younger players for two dudes over 30 and are definitely on the way out. I guess it could work in a "now we have the money to resign Monta" way, it's still fairly nerve-racking.

 
At 6/26/2008 1:09 AM, OpenID tredecimal said...

I like, no LOVE, the idea of Sheed & Jack on the same team. Because if:

Allen, Pierce, Garnett= good cop/bad cop/Joe Clark,

then

Monta/Jack/Sheed= good cop/Denzel in Training Day/Hancock

 
At 6/26/2008 2:40 AM, OpenID BigSaxmo said...

I don't understand the Beasley/Marion for Brand/no. 7 rumor. Like, that seems absurdly unfair to Miami to me.

Mr. Cool Ice is my hero and I want to become his student.

 
At 6/26/2008 6:14 AM, Blogger D.J. Foster said...

I'm a Clipper fan. Realizing the Clips were going to be awful this year without Brand or Livingston, I closely followed Rose and Beasley and a few others like Gordon.

And with the 7th pick, I saw all my dreams of landing Beasley pretty much disappear. Now, if there really is an opportunity to swing a deal to land him, I'm going to be devestated if we don't. Beasley is the truth.

 
At 6/26/2008 9:18 AM, Blogger The Hypnotoad said...

Seriously, what the hell is miami thinking if they don't take and keep Beasley? They are worried cause they have Marion for another year? Big deal, its one freaking year against a career of a young stud. They should just stockpile as many good young players as they can get to pair alongside Wade. When his contract comes up and he's looking around, he's going to see a young promising team against old fading teams that WERE good a couple years ago but now are about to fade. Just look at Bryants situation, he probably would have loved to join Dallas, the Bulls, or the Suns last year, now he's on a young team that has an awesome future, while those other three teams are all rebuilding. Just draft Beasley, Riley, he aint gonna suck.

 
At 6/26/2008 9:39 AM, Blogger nelsojcau said...

this may have been said already, and i'm just regurgitating it. . .but it seems like Riley's doing a masterful job of throwing everyone off his scent. That he secretly loves Beasley and has somehow managed to trick Chicago into thinking that Rose is who he really wants so they ought to draft him, all while Beasley drops into Miami's lap?

 
At 6/26/2008 9:41 AM, Blogger nelsojcau said...

ps - is there going to be any live FreeDrafto coverage anywhere?

 
At 6/26/2008 10:09 AM, Blogger Joshua R said...

TJ Ford, Rasho, and the 17 for Jermaine O'Neal is now "official" - except it isn't until July 9th, but it is because it's been leaked to the press.

Meanwhile, Pritchard up in Portland sits silently with a white puffy cat, stroking and thinking, ready to slouch towards Bethlehem (talk about mixed metaphors!)

 
At 6/26/2008 10:21 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I'll be live-blogging on Deadspin, others will do a chat for here that may or may not be live. Stay tuned.

 
At 6/26/2008 10:24 AM, Blogger Kyle said...

I read that part of the reason Miami is cool on Beasley is because they are hoping to sign Boozer next summer (he has a home in Miami). Any truth to this?

 
At 6/26/2008 10:43 AM, Blogger Christopher said...

Beasley might ALREADY be better than Boozer, and he sure will be a heck of a lot cheaper (in the immediate future)

WV:rezes - Nick Young's favorite candy

 
At 6/26/2008 11:00 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I want to publicly apologize for missing the boat on MONRR. Did it only really become an issue after the Celtics won?

 
At 6/26/2008 11:07 AM, Blogger avery said...

I saw on SC Stephen A. propose that Miami take and trade Beasley to the
Bulls for Hinrich and T. Thomas.

I feel that would be more than odd for Rose and Beasley and into the realm of the uncanny, for all of the discussion of who would go first, and then odd considering the way the Curry/Chandler picks worked out.

 
At 6/26/2008 11:14 AM, Blogger Joshua R said...

I saw on SC Stephen A. propose that Miami take and trade Beasley to the Bulls for Hinrich and T. Thomas.

I feel that would be more than odd for Rose and Beasley and into the realm of the uncanny, for all of the discussion of who would go first, and then odd considering the way the Curry/Chandler picks worked out.

there are two things I don't get about that type of trade. First off, Beasley is far more talented right now than Tyrus Thomas. Your best hope with Thomas is that he's as talented as Beasley is right now in like three years. And secondly, Thomas has his own "character issues" - he doesn't seem like a Riley guy either. Doesn't make any sort of sense.


In other news:
Apparently Portland and the Knicks were discussing the following:

The Knicks would get the 13th and 27th pick along with either Steve Blake or Jarret Jack

while Portland would get the 6th pick and David Lee.

To which I say: is Isiah still running things over there? If you're Portland, why don't you do that trade? You're all but guaranteed of getting either Bayless or Westbrook to stash at PG (Roy can take on some of the PG role, so you can free Westbrook to be a defensive terror) and you get Lee to round out your big man rotation. It also enables you to shop Martell Webster and Channing Frye hard. And, you keep your two high 2nd round picks in case someone, especially at SF, drops (like, say, Bill Walker). Meanwhile, the Knicks will end up getting some prospect at 27 that may never play for them, and likely a lesser talent at 13, while giving up a solid rebounder. Amazing. I'm giddy over the possibility and hope it happens even if it is but one more step towards the building of the Portland juggernaut.

I'm approaching the draft with both apprehension and glee. Glee at all of this byzantine backroom shenigans and apprehension that I'll have nothing else to think about, NBA wise, for three months or so after about 10PM tonight.

 
At 6/26/2008 1:07 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

The Knicks trading David Lee would probably be really good for him, since he's a great player and deserves better than to be stuck in a dysfunctional shithole, but that would probably be the tipping point that led me to either switching allegiance to the Nets when they come to Brooklyn or taking the plunge into liberated fandom. There's only so much bullshit you can take before it's just fucking ENOUGH.

 
At 6/26/2008 2:31 PM, Blogger Ken said...

The Heat doing anything but drafting Beasley is gallacticly stupid.

Why would they trade for Brand when they can get him next year signing him as a free agent? Same for Boozer who already lives here in SFla.

If anything they should trade Marion to the Lakers for Odom and run Wade, Odom and Beasley. Riley has always gotten the most out of Odom and that team, for this next season at least, would be a FD dream.

 
At 6/26/2008 4:37 PM, Blogger Joshua R said...

Yi's going to New Jersey with Bobby Simmons for Richard Jefferson. How completely unexpected. I hope it is a harbinger for a crazy night to come. I wonder if Vince Carter is now up for grabs?

 
At 6/26/2008 4:49 PM, Blogger Louie Bones said...

Can we get a new thread/liveblog/lovefest for the draft tonight?

 
At 6/26/2008 4:51 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Wish granted, though I was going to anyway.

 

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