Beasley unbound

Friends, your 2011 lockout is blessedly over. I’d like to be able to tell you that this means that we can just forget it all and move on. But, for many reasons, we can’t. Owners will continue exploit every possible CBA wrinkle in order to personally embed diamonds into Drew Gooden’s (and Jerome James’, and Gilbert Arenas’) molars. People like the Maloofs will continue to invest in real estate bubbles in unlivable cities. Michael Jordan will continue to distill himself into a chewy white paste of sour self-interest. Certain players will continue to cash their paychecks in Cheesecake Factory bucks (if they existed). Michael Beasley will continue to be Michael Beasley.

I thought of B-Easy often during this lockout and not just because he got busted for weed, fell over in a pickup game, pushed a fan in the face, referred to the lockout as “retarded” and sued both is former agent and his AAU coach. I thought of him because in many ways this lockout was about players like him. The Union is all but required to secure as much money as humanly possible for its members not simply out of greed or charter, but because many players share some or all of his defining qualities. His adolescent education was itinerant and skeletal; he was a special ed kid who floated from high school to high school, carried along only by his serious hoop skills.  He went to college for one year (and probably less, if we’re honest). He probably won’t ever get that massive deal and his career might not last very long. A guy like that really needs Billy Hunter to do some work.

It pains me to say these things because, in my experience, Mike Beasley has been a totally likeable guy. I’ve seen him sing to himself with deep passion; I’ve seen him make a funny and totally not offensive joke about Kevin Love’s grandmother; I’ve seen him eat Skittles like a starving eight-year-old. So let me tell you why I worry that his rank of 109th on #NBARank may be the high watermark of his career.

1) His offensive game is high-volume, low-efficiency, unidimensional and inconsistent. We all know the paradigmatic Beasley possession. He holds the ball on the right wing, simultaneously sizing up his opponent and bleeding the shot-clock to within an inch of its life. Which sizing up is funny because everybody–you, me, the ball defender, the weakside help defender and probably B-Easy himself–knows what will happen next. He will drive left, pulling up at around the free-throw line; he will take a contested jumper. Chances are (about a 63% chance actually), he’ll miss it.  Most of us know the numbers by now: .514 career true shooting percentage; 27.3 career usage rate; bad news.

2) His defense is inattentive, his effort mercurial. His situational recognition–should I help or stay home? Should I sag into the paint or close out on that shooter?–is slow and often poor. And when his shot isn’t falling or the Wolves are struggling, that glint in his eye gets a little dull.

3) The Wolves just drafted a more efficient, more physical, probably more driven version version of him. One of Rick Adelman’s most pressing challenges is to find an effective, balanced frontcourt rotation. And although the rookie learning curve in a foreshortened season will be extra steep, my guess is that by season’s end Derrick Williams will be seeing the lion’s share of the small forward minutes.

We very much hope these things improve; we want a player as likeable and talented as Beasley to succeed, for his sake and for the Wolves’. It’s certainly not unheard of for players t0 become more creative, more driven or more efficient as they mature. But doing all of those things really is a tall order. There is just so much of Beasley’s game that needs to improve and doing so requires such incredible stores of focus, attention and discipline. These, I’m afraid, are qualities that Beasley hasn’t really shown he possesses.


Lockout comes to 'Sota

Hey look everybody, our picture’s in the paper! The NBA players–specifically plaintiffs Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Steve Nash among many others–are taking their antitrust suit against the league to the Minnesota courts. The reason? According to players’ lawyer David Boies, “the docket is less congested there. They have a good track record of handling these kind of cases very promptly.”Ah, Minnesota, prized nationwide for its promptness and efficiency. And you better believe the judge will tell Carmelo to “have a real good day now” on his way out.

I’ve always felt that our resolutely polite on-timeness was of a piece with our Christmas-sweatered stoicism, our stubborn, but ultimately awfully inexpressive politeness. A little hard to take, in other words. But living here in New Mexico, where important things–straight answers, extremely important pieces of paper that you need to, like, get paid and you know for sure you delivered in person, people–just kind of drift away into the desert, where the guy who was supposed to fix your hot water heater shows up ten hours late because “oh man bro, things just got crazy over here” (translation: “I was talking to someone about my girlfriend’s kids, the stray dog living in my backyard, the Raiders.”), I’m gaining a new understanding of efficiency’s charm.  Nice job, everybody. (Don’t get me wrong, though: New Mexicans are really great, warm people who throw a mean day of the dead parade and can really hook up a breakfast burrito.)

The added irony to this is that the players are choosing our pleasantly efficient state as a place to begin the hardest-core phase of their confrontation with the league.  Indeed, the diclaiming of the Union may have been the moment that the players realized that they were engaged, not in a negotiation with the owners, but in a bloodsport. That it took them nearly three years to wake up to this reality is a little puzzling (in his comprehensive flaying of the Union’s bargaining tactics, in Grantland, Bill Simmons wonders why, if they had any plans at all to dissolve the Union, they didn’t do so the moment they realized the owners a) held all the cards and b) had no inclination to bargain. Which moment ought to have occurred long ago.) But however they got here, for the NBA right now, MN is uncharted territory.

Rubio weighing return to Spain

The AP is reporting that Ricky Rubio will soon pursue signing with Barcelona if the NBA lockout can’t be resolved. Says Ricky, “I want to wait until I see there is no chance of resolving the situation, and then I will sign with another team.”

On one hand, it’s a good thing that, even if there is no NBA, Rubio will be getting some court time this year. On the other hand, it’s not like playing for Barca over the past few seasons has exactly done wonders for his game.

The lockout grows old, Luke Ridnour grows up

This article is only partly about Scott Bakula

The NBA lockout rolls on, bearing with it all of its collected narratives. Incredibly rich men continue to beg to be protected from their poor decisions, both past and future. The union continues to accumulate missteps and ill-chosen statements. (Read this article now.) Childhood heroes–looking bloated and sad in ill-fitting but probably astonishingly expensive jackets, having long lost that joyfully redeeming glow that more than once reduced us to tears, having revealed over and over their crass, blandly corporate, brand-maximizing self-interest–continue to gravely disappoint.

It is inevitable, then, that at times like these our thoughts would turn to Luke Ridnour. (For one thing, he is exactly the kind of middle-tier player that this lockout is largely about.) Ridnour is a perfectly competent, perfectly likeable NBA guy (186th in #NBARank, with a score of 4.51 out of 10: just above average).  It helps him that he shot 44% from three last season and moved the ball in the open floor like an actual point guard (unlike some second-year PG’s we know). It helps him that he had a higher assist rate (29.9) than Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Tony Parker and many others. It helps him–in my estimation, at least–that he looks like a pale, undernourished JV stowaway and yet moves on the court with the same lilting stride, the same aggressive confidence as all accomplished NBA guards.

In many ways, he didn’t deserve to be trapped on a 17-win team and in an offense that constrained his playmaking abilities. (Consider that last year he had the second-lowest usage rate of any starting NBA point guard, behind only Jason Kidd.) It’s true that Ridnour was prone to periods of strange shot-selection and wayward late-game decisions, but he often seemed, with apologies to Anthony Tolliver, like the only adult on an island of lost boys.

On the other hand, average point guards (who are not teammates of Kobe Bryant or LeBron James) are the stock-in-trade of bad teams. The Wolves’ offense was painfully stagnant for large portions of the season. And while this could be blamed on lots of things–Michael Beasley’s stolidly predictable solo adventures, the team’s barely rudimentary grasp of its own offense and that offense’s latent conservatism–it was largely because their point guards lacked the dynamism to shape the game; too much of the time they simply didn’t make plays.

At some point, the owners and the players will amicably wind up their dance; or they will collapse from exhaustion; or they will just eat each other alive, right there on the dance floor in front of everybody. At that point, Luke Ridnour–now on my side of 30, with no All-Star games in sight–will settle into the role that was probably ordained for him the moment he first stepped into a gym: mentoring a younger, more prodigious, more mercurial player. There are worse things in this world than nurturing something beautiful.

Timberwolves: bad at drafting

I would have included this in my links yesterday but it hadn’t been written yet. Not my fault. But today at Truehoop, Tom Haberstroh opens eyes by revealing that while “draft efficiency alone explains 34 percent of the variability in a team’s record over the past decade” payroll size explains just seven percent. So much for economic inequality explaining competitive imbalance, I guess. (Effing hysterical, by the way, that some of the country’s most bloated plutocrats are whinging about economic inequality. As Dave Berri recently put it in this radio interview, “Americans love socialism in their sports.”)

Of perhaps more interest to us Wolves’ followers: Haberstroh includes a chart detailing the league’s best-drafting and worst-drafting teams over the past decade. Guess what is not surprising: the Wolves came in second-worst. This, more than any other reason–more even than market size or chilly winters–is why they are bad.

Mike Beasley talks lockout

Adelman updated

Update: This is still very much in rumor phase, but folks are saying here and here (and maybe more importantly, Kevin Love is tweeting) that Adelman has agreed to a deal. More later.

This from Jerry Zgoda at the Star-Tribune:

The Timberwolves have started negotiations to sign Rick Adelman as their next coach, league sources with knowledge of the search said Sunday.David Kahn, Timberwolves president of basketball operations, might know as soon as Monday whether he can land the man who has a .605 winning percentage in 20 seasons as a NBA head coach. Adelman, 65, is believed to be seeking a five-year contract worth at least $25 million.

That’s a lot of cheddar to give somebody if you don’t even know whether there’ll be a season. But considering the Wolves’ low payroll and the probability that every team’s basketball-related expenditures will be lower in the coming years, I say it’s a good investment. On the other hand, I have less than $100 in my checking account at the moment so I guess it’s easy for me to say.

Adelman and Beasley in the rumor mill

This is not Michael Beasley's wrist

Look, I know it’s a little weird to be obsessively monitoring the travel plans of an, in most respects, average 66-year-old man. I mean, it’s not like Rick Adelman is carrying a radical cure for Alzheimer’s (which also happens to give apes astonishing powers of intelligence and will usher in the end of human life on Earth) in his suitcase. And part of me agrees with Kelly Dwyer that, considering the Wolves’ brass weird unpredictability and the distinct possibility that they won’t even hire a coach during the lockout, we should just ignore this story until there is an actual name on an actual contract written in actual ink.

But this is what’s going on so I might as well just go ahead and say that Adelman is reported to be in Minneapolis today to meet with Glen Taylor. This is his second trip to the TC in as many weeks, which would seem to point to a level of seriousness yet unprecedented in this coaching search. But the truth is we have no idea what this means and anything we might say is really just speculation.

On that note, I wonder what airline he took and if he got to see a movie. Someone should ask him.

And speaking of things we don’t know anything about,  Hoop China is reporting that Michael Beasley broke his wrist while dunking during an exhibition. So far, this is just a rumor of a rumor, written on the winds of Twitter and in languages I don’t read; I’m just putting it out there.

More Notes on a Lockout

Last week I made the point that the league has been semantically unclear as to whether its real aim is financial parity or competitive balance. So yesterday in the bullets Henry linked to a really excellent Wages of Wins piece by David Berri that digs very deeply (using like stats and research and stuff) into the relationship between the two.

Berri concludes first that “salary caps, payroll caps, luxury taxes, and revenue sharing don’t seem to have much impact on competitive balance.” But they do have the effect of driving down player salaries. And second, changes in the league’s popularity have been independent of changes in parity. As he puts it, “fans don’t seem to care much about competitive balance,” which reinforces what we’ve already begun to suspect. (As a corollary to these findings, he finds that market size does not have a significant impact on wins, something else I’ve been suspecting.)

Berri takes the same approach here as he does when discussing (accurately, I believe) the idea that scoring is overvalued and overcompensated by NBA teams. He implies that the owners have misunderstood the evidence, that they don’t understand that structural mechanisms like salary caps do not meaningfully effect competitive balance.

Let me suggest again, though, that this lack of clarity is not actually a misunderstanding, that financial parity is itself the key issue, and that talk of competitive balance is simply a rhetorical strategy.  I mean, do you really think the league is willing to waste a season to bring you a Memphis/Milwaukee final? The owners’ goal, it seems to me, is not making bad teams competitive, it’s making them profitable–no matter how poorly run they are.  And they mean to achieve this goal by using those mechanisms (the ones that supposedly induce competitive balance) to radically reduce salaries.

I’ll let Beckley Mason, righteously indignant at Hoopspeak, have the last word:

A part of me just wants to players to cave so we can have a season next year. Another part, the part that hopes the fantastically skilled and entertaining laborers can get a reasonable deal, wants a world governed by transparency and rationality. That part can just barely stomach the NBA owners leveraging all they have to get a revolutionary new deal, but not the misrepresentations about why they want it, or how they’re going about getting it.


Michael Beasley's endless summer, cont.

Oh man, this offseason just gets longer and longer. Evidently our guy (an adult man, remember, who gets paid to play basketball) wasn’t aware that there would be hecklers at a streetball game in New York and is lacking the deep breathing skills necessary to keep things chill. From Ian Begley of ESPN New York (check the link for video):

He then approached one fan and shoved him in the face. Security guards stepped in to diffuse the situation. Shortly after “mushing” the fan in the face, Beasley approached him again to shake his hand, but the interaction escalated and Beasley had to be restrained by security. “He was a little wild,” said KaBourn Crosley, the coach of Team 914, on which Beasley played. “I couldn’t stop him.”

So that was a bad decision. Oh, Michael Beasley, what will ever become of you?