Los Angeles: Michael Beasley thinks the basketball world is foolish to assume the Los Angeles Lakers’ revamped locker room will be combustible before the fuse is even lit.
The Lakers announced their signing of Beasley to a one-year contract on Monday, adding the versatile forward to their new core of veterans around LeBron James.
Beasley, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee have all joined Los Angeles this month in a slate of provocative off-season signings to supplement its talented youngsters and James, who started the parade to the West Coast when he left Cleveland for the 16-time NBA champions in free agency.
All four of these well-known, well-travelled veterans around James have varying degrees of colourful histories in their previous NBA stops, prompting widespread speculation in the media and around the league about how coach Luke Walton will manage his roster. They’ve already attracted an immediate online nickname — “The Meme Team” — while other pundits have compared them to a basketball Suicide Squad, referring to the recent DC Comics film about a misfit team of anti-heroes.
Beasley thinks the entire discussion is summertime NBA nonsense.
“For there to even be a narrative [about problems with] personalities in this room is judgement enough for me, and I just don’t want to be a part of it,” Beasley said.
Heading into his 11th NBA season with his seventh franchise, Beasley knows something about locker room chemistry and the importance of professionalism. He was James’ teammate with the Miami Heat during the 2013-14 season, when they reached the NBA Finals, and he already has friendships with Rondo, Stephenson and McGee.
Beasley hasn’t become the superstar many expected when he was the No. 2 pick by Miami in the 2008 draft, but he has fashioned a solid NBA career. He said he couldn’t have lasted this long in the league if he didn’t get along with his teammates, listen to coaches and work toward team goals — and he feels the same about Rondo, Stephenson and McGee, who have all had enduring careers.
“Anybody [who] starts judging a lot of players, me mainly, doesn’t figure out that guys like me and Nick Young and J.R. Smith and Lance Stephenson and guys like that actually know how to play basketball, actually know how to win basketball games and actually know how to get along with others,” Beasley said. “It’s nothing to do with my maturity. It’s the total opposite.”
Beasley demonstrated that mature mentality when asked about his expectations and goals with the Lakers, who will have to put in plenty of preseason work figuring out how to play with each other.
“I’m not really here to beat anybody out of minutes, or play more than this guy,” Beasley said. “I’m here to play a team game and do as much winning as I can.”
Beasley averaged 13.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game last year in a productive season with the New York Knicks, his sixth NBA franchise in 10 years in the league.
Beasley’s 6-foot-9 ranginess and versatility fit the stated desire of Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson for multi-positional, ball-handling veterans eager to play hard-nosed defence, rather than the role players and pure perimeter shooters who occupied much of the Cavaliers’ roster in recent years.
Even getting a phone call from Johnson was a thrill for Beasley, who idolises the former Lakers point guard.
“I mean, showtime. That’s Magic, you know?” Beasley said. “A guy I dreamed of meeting my whole life. So the chance to play for him, it’s surreal… I was trying to keep my emotions professional, [but] I had to put the phone on mute once or twice.”
Johnson provided Beasley with a detailed description of his likely role with the Lakers. Beasley also is willing to be a vocal leader to the Lakers’ gifted young players, including Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart.
“I think they’re all special in their own way,” Beasley said. “I think Josh Hart, Ingram, Kuz, Ball, I think they can all at some point in their careers be All-Stars and be leaders of their team. I think Luke did a great job with those guys, especially in the second half of the season, getting those guys to play and getting those guys to buy into what he believes in… I feel like they can be anything they want to be.”