Lately the webs (including we here at A Wolf Among Wolves) have been abuzz with talk of Michael Beasley’s hot shooting. How will defenses adjust? How will he adjust to those adjustments, plus his inevitable cooling off? What will happen when he plays a team that plays better defense than Sacramento? We got a few of these answers on Friday night against the Lakers, but I thought I ‘d put these questions to the two coaches who have worked with Beasley the most this year, Reggie Theus and J.B. Bickerstaff (the subtle differences in their answers are pretty interesting, by the way). First Mr. Theus:
I know you’ve been working with Beasley a lot. Can you talk about the way you’ve seen his game change in the past few weeks since he’s started to become more successful?
We talk about straight lines. I saw him as a guy coming in here that shot a lot of off-balance shots. We talked about how a game develops over the course of your career, the differences between an older veteran and a young player. The biggest difference is wasted motion. I said, “Right now you’ve got a lot of wasted motion [even though] it looks good.” And I used myself as an example. I was less flashy but more productive as I got even into my thirties because of the wasted motion.
I was telling him that he does a lot of things that are off-balance, so we talked about straight lines. Drive in a straight line, get your shot in a straight line. We talk about not snapping his arm back, and getting a full extension of his arm [on his jumper]. He’s worked very hard at trying to fit into this system and play within a concept and really find his niche. Because in the beginning of the season we didn’t really know if we had a go-to guy. And that’s something that’s not given, it’s earned. And he’s earned that.
It seems that teams have maybe been giving him that 16-23 footer. You think teams are going to continue giving him that shot?
Offensive players are going to get what they want. They’re not giving it to him, he’s taking those spots. And it’s because he’s in a straight line, he’s making his move. You see that he’s not quite spinning as much as he used to and falling away. He’s ripping and he’s getting to that spot and he’s elevating–he’s got great leaps–and he finishes high, he’s got good extension on his shots. He’s taking the shot that he wants, the defense is not dictating anything to him right now.
When he stops shooting 65% from 20 feet away from the basket would you like to see him getting to the basket more?
Well, we talk about having a secondary game. You have to have a secondary game. From quarter to quarter, from half to half you have to be able to switch reels. You know, early in the season when he wasn’t shooting it quite as well, we talked about getting a couple of layups first, getting fouled first, getting to the rim. You’re gonna have to change that up. His ultimate progression is going to be about his ability to score around the basket and posting up. He has that ability. He’s so quick and so explosive, you put him in that short corner, he’s one dribble away from the rim. He’d be a tough cover out there.
Why do you think that’s been later to develop for him?
It’s like a guy who has tremendous jumping ability. He just relies on his athleticism so much, he’s never really had to do anything else.
And then J.B.:
I know you’ve been working a lot with Beasley. Can you talk about some of the stuff you’ve been going over together?
You know, just consistency. The way he plays, the way he works, trying to help him get a routine down. He’s got a skill-set that’s unmatched by a lot of people in this league; it’s just a matter of getting it so that it’s consistent and you know when it’s going to show up. So from his game-day routine, to stuff that he does when we’re on the road, just trying to make it as consistent as possible. So that he knows, when 7:00 comes, this is what you’re doing.
What is he going to need to do when he stops shooting so hot from 20 feet out?
He can really attack the basket. I mean, that’s where his strength is. His jumpshot opens up because guys know that they can’t stop him from getting to the basket. But now that he’s making shots, guys are going to have to close out to him and respect him, now he can put the ball on the floor. There’s not many threes that have that kind of size who can defend him and be physical with him, and there’s not fours who are quick enough on the perimeter to stop him from getting to the basket.
But we don’t talk about him not making those shots anymore. He’s got his rhythm, he feels good, his confidence is going. We tell him every day and he believes that this isn’t some sort of streak or something like that, this is just who he is. We just continue to build his confidence and if that day ever happens, we’ll get to it then.
Do you think he needs to get to the basket a bit more?
I think sometimes he settles for jumpshots when he doesn’t have to. He feels like he’s gonna make them all, so you don’t really want to pull him back from where is confidence is and what his belief in himself is so you kinda just let him go. He’ll learn that there’s times in the fourth quarter when jumpshots don’t get it done, you have to get to the rack. This is all new for him. In Miami he sat and watched Dwyane Wade make those plays and now it’s on him. So he’ll learn. He’s got a high basketball IQ. And even if you watch the difference in the end of the Charlotte game as opposed to the end of the Clipper game, the plays that he made were completely different. He learns quickly.
Was that just a matter of just finding open space on the floor?
It was the patience. When he was in Charlotte, he was so hungry to make a play that he just rushed it. Against the Clippers he was patient and looked at his gaps and looked at the angles and things like that. And he was able to find his shot.
What does he need to do to become a better defender?
For Michael, being a big guy his whole life, there are certain things that perimeter players do that he hasn’t seen a lot. So he’s just got to continue getting reps at it. He’ll watch tape, he’ll do whatever you ask him to do. Night in and night out, that’s the best position on the floor. If you go down the list of guys we’ve played, from Dwyane Wade, Lebron, Vince Carter, Joe Johnson, Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, the two and three is the best position on the floor to defend. So it’s a matter of reps, its a matter of studying guys and learning their habits. Each guy is unique so you have to study them and figure out what they like to do and figure out ways to stop them. And if you watch him, he’ll take that challenge without a doubt.