In the first live game action for what projects to become an ongoing feature for this site, we’re watching a game with a distinct focus on one player. For the most part, the concentration will be on the younger folks — mostly rooks and emerging notables like Young Thaddeus, Julian Wright and Andrew Bynum — but some other guys like AI, Mo Williams, Manu, Dannny Granger and Jermaine O’Neal also represent likely candidates.
Tonight, we kick things off with Michael Beasley.
Truthfully, this choice is much more due to me wanting to watch Flash vs. CP3 than any burning desire I have to analyze the nuances in the game of Mike Beasley, who seems to be having the most predictably seamless transition into the League in terms of how he plays/scores than any other first-year guy.
Nevertheless, it’s always nice to see how a rookie plays on the road and I haven’t even really watched Miami play yet, so it’ll be interesting to get a pointed look at the preseason consensus Rookie of the Year pick (even though Derrick Rose has put the kibosh on all of that nonsense in less than two weeks).
Let’s get after it.
12:00 – With a front-court of Marion/Beasley/Haslem, Heat Coach Eric Spoelstra puts Beasley on Chandler, which the announcer says is due to Haslem being better suited to deal with David West’s arsenal of deceptive moves.
11:30 – Early on, Beasly spends time in the offense on the high-post and setting a few — mostly decoy — screen-rolls. Nothing comes of it, but he is active and always looking as if he expects to receive a pass at all times.
10:12 – Beasley takes his first shot, a mid-range jumper from the left side in slow-break transition early in the clock. He misses, but it was a good shot.
9:03 – Chandler tries to overpower Beasley on the block. He never was able to establish low position on Michael and was unsuccessful in creating any space even after the catch. Tyson takes two dribbles into the paint and takes an ugly jump-hook that is heavily contested by Beasley, who literally gave up no ground and may have even moved Tyson even further away from the hoop during the move. Given the size differential, that’s highly impressive
8:04 – Beasley catches on the right wing and moves towards the bucket with two dribbles. Marion’s guy creeps over in helpside and Beasley gives it up to a baseline-cutting Marion. The pass isn’t really on-point and Shawn isn’t able to take it all the way to the rim. He tries to get it back to Beasley, who had floated to the front of the rim, but the pass was off. The play showed good instincts by Beasley — both in giving it up to Matrix when he ran into too much traffic and in staying involved in the action by finding space where he could potentially score — but the execution was sloppy from both guys.
7:00 – For about the fifth time, Beasley rushes the rim for a rebound after a Hornet’s jumper. Though he hasn’t gotten a board yet, it’s more due to the random caroms not coming his way than anything positional. But it seems pretty evident he is quick to the paint after a shot and is in the “go get it” school of rebounding and fairly unconcerned with blocking anyone out. Given his athleticism, awareness and time spent on the perimeter, that’s probably for the best.
6:38 – Beasley makes space on the high left post and while calling for the ball with his back to his defender. Chalmers can’t get him the ball but dribbles towards him and turns Beasley into a screener. He provides a decent baricade and Chalmers gets to the rim, making a nice, contested floater off the glass. And while Chalmers didn’t need to give up the ball, Beasley rolled nicely to a spot where the former Jayhawk could have found him if he wasn’t able to score himself
6:06 – Beasley picks up CP3 in an ambiguous transition break that doesn’t come to fruition. CP3 tries to pull it out like he plans to take advantage of the quickness mismatch, but Beasley digs in and gets in a low stance like he’s eager for the challenge. CP3 ends up giving it up in an entry pass.
5:37 – Hilton Armstrong has Beasley on his back in the post. He hesitates before the move and then makes a power drop-step that gets him an open 2-foot shot. Beasley tries to recover, but only fouls. He was clearly overpowered and late to react to the post-move.
4:00 – Nothing particular happens, but just a catch-up note to mention how well he runs the floor. On both ends, he just makes up a lot of ground in very few steps. He doesn’t look incredibly quick by NBA standards, but he is remarkably fluid and seems able to cover an incredible span with each step — more so than Tyson and Marion, and much more than a guy like David West. Even in the half-court, his movement is noticeably efficient. Where as a guy like Matrix sort of hops around in a constant flex position, Beasley moves like a great NHL defenseman and can seemingly get from the high elbow to the opposite block with a single reverse pivot. His movement is, in a word, effortless.
3:24 – After a Wade penetration is thwarted, the ball gets back to the top of the key and then swung over to Beasley. He moves it one more time to Chris Quinn in the corner, who ball fakes and then swings it right back to Michael. He’s about two feet inside the arc and lets it go without hesitation. He misses.
2:20 – Beasley checks out of the game. 0 points on 0/2 shotting, 1 rebound, 1 foul and goose eggs across the board otherwise.
0:30 – Beasley checks back in when Marion unexpectedly heads to the locker room for some reason. His re-entry is due to an injury, me has to think.
11:40 – Making his presence felt offensively for the first time, he gets the ball on the left wing, dribbles twice, spins towards the lane on Posey and makes a little room with a hesitation, high-dribble. He pulls up from 17 and drills a straight-away jumper. Pretty nice.
11:00 – Next trip down, Beasley gets the ball on the right wing this time and pushes the issue again. This time, he overexerts, however, and although he awkwardly makes his way towards the left block after three or four dribbles, the shot he gets off is contested by two defenders. He ends up on the floor and somehow picks up a loose-ball foul on frantic rebounding action. No so pretty nice.
9:58 – Marion checks in for Beasley on the next whistle since he has two fouls and also ended up not getting much rest due to Marion having to leave the court suddenly. Not sure what was up with Matrix, but he’s back sans the “Rip mask” that he had been wearing the past few games and in the first quarter.
5:20 – Beasley remains on the bench, but Matrix put his mask back on during a TO. Not sure what’s going on. I know he said he hated it the other day. Maybe it broke a strap earlier or something and has since been fixed.
3:08 – Beasley still on the bench, but there was just a remarkable exchange. Tyson grabbed an innocuous defensive board and Flash tried to stealthily knock it out of his hands from behind as he was holding it above his head. It looks like Wade mobbed his forearms in the process, but he wound up snatching the ball regardless and dished a nice lil bounce pass along the baseline to an open guy underneath the hoop. Not so fast says CP3, however, and he gets a deflection. He can’t gather the ball though until he’s falling out of bounds so he winds up and throws like a 15-foot frozen rope fastball at some big guy’s knee. The ball bounces right back towards an out-of-bounds CP3, who scurries to get out of the way. Meanwhile, Wade is running to save the ball and ends up Superman diving over a rolling-on-the-court CP3. Wade doesn’t quite make it in time to save the ball, but it was a hell of an effort and just a cool little sequence of hustle and randomness. NO is up 40-29, by the way, even though Paul hasn’t scored.
11:30 – Beasley is still guarding Tyson. He’s jumping quick to react to ball movement while still paying close attention to the dangerous big guy. He’s fronting him when the ball comes strong side and moving back to the middle of the paint well when it’s rotated back to the other side. After a shot goes up, he tries to block out Chandler, but even though he gets a little help from Flash in trying to move Tyson off the glass, Chandler elevates over both of them and gets a hand on the ball, which gives the Hornets an extra possession.
10:55 – Beasley makes a sweet move with the ball and gets to the hoop, finishing with his inimitable little righty scoop shot. I don’t know how he gets those off so easily.
10:08 – Beasley misses a baseline jumper from the right side, but HOT DAMN, Flash goes up and flushes the hell out of the board on a follow-dunk. Wow, Dwyane. You’ll be seeing that on the plays of the night.
9:48 – (I think) Flash spots a cutting Beasley after a broken play and he stutter-steps before going up and ball-faking his way into another righty scoop shot attempt. The one gets swatted. And then Chandler beats him down the court and gets a dunk plus the foul from a helpless, rotating Dwyane Wade, which puts the Hornets up 56-42.
8:31 – Beasley continues to be a very active defender on Tyson, being much more aggressive in traps and giving Chandler much more room in rotation that I would expect. I would think he would exercise more caution given the huge size mismatch and seemingly constant array of CP3-to-Chandler alley-oops last year. I’m not sure if this aggressiveness is a good thing or a bad thing.
7:57 – Well aren’t I prescient. CP3 finds Tyson on an alley-opp when Beasley is utterly lost on defense. He was half-trapping CP3 for no real reason and it almost looked like he forgot he was supposed to be guarding Tyson at all. Pat Riley is rolling in his grave.
6:37 – Beasley follows up an athletically impressive board in traffic by knocking down a spot-up, catch-and-shoot jumper on the other end. Nice redemption sequence for the kid. The announcers note the nice stroke and one of them says, “He has skills, but he doesn’t seem to be engaged at all times on the court.” The other guy responds with something like (paraphrasing) “That’s what they say about him.” Tonight, I have to disagree, gents (who I’ll have to forgive since they are having too much trouble controlling their erections over Dwyane and Chris to pay attention to anything else). Beasley has actually been been slashing and generally moving through the offense with constant movement. I haven’t seen him stationary waiting around the perimeter aside from when that’s what he should be doing as a potential swing passer or for spacing purposes on the weakside. On defense, he seems to be embracing the challenge of guarding the bigger, more physical Chandler and, as noted above, if anything, he’s moving around too much out there and not being fearful enough of the extra space he’s giving Chandler when he’s rotating for helpside/traps/hedges. The amount of space he’s leaving between him and Tyson at times reminds me of those scary moments for Red Sox fans when Manny Ramirez is playing left field only like 100 feet past the infield despite the fact that he isn’t playing in Fenway Park and there isn’t a giant wall right behind him. When it comes to the boards, he’s not getting many (he has two rebounds along with his six points, two dimes and a steal), but he is quick to race to the rim after every shot on both ends. Early on, it seemed like it was the way the ball was bouncing that was the only thing keeping him from getting more boards, but now, I have to believe he’s not predicting things well given how many minutes are passing between his rebounds. Regardless, that speaks to poor recognition of angles and space than effort. In short, he appears interested in rebounding, if ineffective.
5:26 – Beasley catches and holds the ball on the left wing. He takes one dribble towards the middle of the court and pulls up in space. It’s a 18-foot airball. Whoops.
4:54 – Beasley catches and shoots from the left side. It bricks rather badly off the outside of the rim.
4:07 – Beasley helps trap Peja in the corner and after some sloppy ball-handling, Beasley just takes the ball from him. Cookies. Serbian cookies.
3:37 – Beasley gets the ball on the low left block. After twirling the ball around with some MJ-style, one-handed palm action, he dribbles twice and then kicks it out to Chris Quinn once his man digs down on the double team. It’s an accurate pass and Quinn sticks the three. Miami cuts it to 68-57.
2:37 – Beasley finds himself again with the ball on the same block. He again does the MJ one-handed palm while arching his back a little and trying to get a feel for his opportunity to attack. A lazy double arrives and he kicks it to a moving Dwyane as he is finding some open space behind the three-point. Wade launches the three but misses. Regardless, that’s back-to-back kick-outs where he didn’t try to force anything with his back to the basket, which is notable since I believe those are the first two on-the-block possessions he’s had this game. A lot of young bigs would force those just because. Whether on the block or the perimeter, he rarely presses.
1:35 – Beasley again gets caught out of position on defense as he gets completely lost hedging on a CP3/Tyson screen roll. CP3 gets the “hockey assist” after a quick swing to Posey and a slip to the hoop by Chandler results in a cross-court lob to Tyson for the power dunk. Beasley had barely even recovered into the frame by that point. Abused.
11:28 – Beasley misses a close-in shot.
11:04 – Beasley races back in transition defense and comes to the aid of a helpless Chris Quinn to disrupt what would have been a Mike James bucket. Hornets retain possession as the ball lands out of bounds, but he saved two points.
10:13 – After Mike James blows by Flash on the baseline, Beasley rotates over. He doesn’t aggressively take him on, however, and timidly tries to avoid the foul than attempting to challenge the shot. The way he didn’t leave the floor on James’ floating four-foot bank shot made it look like he was trying to get position for a charge, but misjudged the angle. It was either that or he conceded the bucket to avoid the foul. Hornets up 79-66.
9:43 – David West gets Beasley on his back on the block. He pivots and shot-fakes, which gets Beasley to jump. West does a little step-through McHale thing, ball-fakes again and shoots from about five feet. Beasley not only can’t recover, but also fouls him as the shot goes in. He converts the three-point play.
8:22 – After missing out on a would-be-possession-ending board due to a quick, weird bounce he wasn’t ready for that lands in the hands of a Hornet, Beasley gets a defensive board on the ensuing miss.
8:06 – Beasley gets to the line and hits two free throws after a ridiculous baseline move where he floated from a catch, no-dribble, one-step, two-footed leap and almost got a reverse lay-up with crazy English to go despite the harm.
6:45 – Beasley again hedges at CP3 thirty feet out during a Paul/Chandler screen/roll and Paul immediately finds a rolling Tyson near the hoop (with a ridiculous bounce pass…but still). Quinn hangs off Tyson’s arm to stop the bucket, but he gets to the line.
6:20 – Beasley sticks a wide-open, straight-away 18-footer on a kick-out (from Wade, I think).
5:54 – Beasley fouls CP3 twenty-five feet from the hoop in a pick-and-roll hedge.
5:02 – Not Beasley-related, but Chris Quinn hits a three to cut the lead to 89-82.
4:37 – Beasley hedges less aggressively on a Tyson/Paul pick-and-roll and CP3 abuses the extra space to go by a half-committing Beasley all the way to the hoop for a lay-up. The lesson here, rook, is that that is an unstoppable play.
3:35 – Beasley draws a non-shooting foul as he tries to make something happen off the bounce.
3:04 – Beasley is guarding Chandler with the ball at the left elbow. CP3 comes around on a dribble-hand-off and Beasley hedges to slow down Paul. Paul attacks half-heartedly then jumps to pass-off to Chandler. Udonis had rotated over to help Beasley until he recovered and disrupts Tyson’s ability to go get the ball slightly, but it is a quick recovery by Beasley that allows him to snatch the half-lob out of the air for the steal. Wow. It’s like he’s reading this as I type it and learning from his mistakes. This quarter has been like a Goldilocks lesson in trying to slow down the “Crescent City Connection” (what they call CP3 to Chandler oop in Nawlins) in which his hedging commitment was at first too hot then too cold and now just right.
2:05 – Beasley commits fully to CP3 this time on the same play and him and Wade get a disruptive trap on Paul thirty feet from the hoop. Paul is forced to pick up his dribble and throws a slow cross-court pass that would have been a “pick 2″ (like an NFL pick 6) if not for David West holding back Chirs Quinn at the top of the key and preventing him from snatching the pass. Refs whistle West for the offensive foul.
1:52 – Beasley gets the ball at the elbow and herky-jerks his way towards the rim. He takes off outside the block and Go Go Gadgets an underhand righty scoop off the glass. Unfortunately, it comes up a little short. Peja hits a three on the ensuing possession and makes it 98-87. That’s likely the nail in the coffin.
0:27 – CP3 gets a lob to Chandler for a lay-up. I wasn’t really paying attention…but I’m pretty sure Beasley wasn’t either.
0:00 – Ball game.
35 minutes, 10 points (4/13), 2 boards, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover
Obviously, these are highly lackluster numbers. But he was fairly active, if not engaged in the offense. For what it’s worth, he seemed to have the ball in his hands more than anyone not named Flash. He certainly was more involved than Marion, who I honestly barely even realized was on the court despite him playing 35 minutes.
Ultimately, it’s hard for me to say much about his offensive performance tonight. Miami’s system seems to be a rotating one-on-one parade in which Dwyane Wade is the undisputed ringleader. When Flash’s penetration attempts or stop-and-go dribble move into a pull-up is disrupted, Plan B is apparently frantic kick-outs and swing passes that have no particular area of the court or offensive concept in mind. It felt like a harnessed chaos of players running by each other in the dark towards random locations, where they would stand momentarily before floating around.
In fairness to Spoelstra and everyone in Miami, it’s difficult to get a good feel for the system when you’re so focused on what one guy is doing so I really have no idea what I’m talking about. I was attempting to watch Beasley even when he was in the far corner or positioning for an upcoming rebound, so I’m not sure who was doing what with the ball — or even who had the ball in some cases.
Defensively, it is glaringly clear that Beasley struggled with the pick-and-roll. As noted in the log, however, he certainly did much better in the 4th quarter as the game progressed. And in fairness again, Tyson Chandler, who has essentially become an automated play-finishing machine telekinetically powered by Chris Paul, is a ridiculously tough match-up for anyone — let alone an oft-perimeter-oriented rookie giving up four inches and seven years of NBA experience. So despite Beasley’s troubles, he handled this assignment much better than I expected, and Spoelstra never once had to alter his pregame match-up plan — a strategy I thought would be shot before half-time. On the contrary, I believe he played all 24 minutes of the second half, and what Beasley lacked in screen/roll defense positioning and understanding, he certainly made up for in demeanor. Not only did he not shy away from any situation where he was individually confronted by either Tyson or CP3 — he seemed to embrace it. Essentially, he knuckled up and said, “I got this, Coach.” Considering I haven’t seen Tim Duncan, KG or anyone else in the whole League stop that pick-and-roll combination either, I can’t see putting all that much weight on Beasley being made look foolish a few times.
Looking at highlights and statistical production, this was ultimately a mundane game by an NBA rookie. But, honestly, I think watching the knuckle up attitude that Beasley displayed in regards to this highly difficult assignment showed me more about this kid than I probably would have taken away from a game where he compiled his normal 18 and 8 without facing any adversity on the other end.
Then again, maybe I’m just trying to validate spending two-and-a-half hours analyzing a potential 20/10 guy on a night he dropped 10/2.