Monday, August 24, 2009
No easy course correction for Beasley
By J.A. Adande ESPN.com
Michael Beasley's troubles might spur GMs to weigh factors other than talent more heavily.
Given that the NBA chose to overlook LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett and numerous other straight-from-high-school success stories when it instituted its age requirement, we should use the same selective logic to say this sad Michael Beasley case demonstrates that a forced year of college isn't the magical solution to the league's youthful problems.
That season spent at Kansas State didn't make Beasley mature enough to be a professional basketball player, didn't provide enough guidance to help his decision-making and couldn't prevent him from -- according to sources -- checking into a Houston area rehabilitation center.
"I think people either decide to change or not," an NBA general manager said. "It's a very personal process. I don't think school helps or hinders that."
College improves you, but it doesn't eliminate your problems. And it can actually create problems for the school, as we've seen from Memphis' asterisked run to the 2008 Final Four led by Derrick Rose, he of the voided SAT score. Ultimately, the NBA's wait-a-year rule doesn't do much good for anybody except the NBA scouts who don't have to spend as much time driving to high school gyms.
The solution to shaky high school stars was always a simple one: Don't draft them. But NBA teams have been too seduced by talent to resist players with questionable backgrounds, and that proved true for the Heat in the 2008 draft. After the Chicago Bulls selected Rose with the first pick, the feeling was the Heat had to take Beasley (a 20 and 10 guy in the making, some GMs believed) at No. 2. So they did, even though they had sent out all kinds of signals that they had deep concerns about him.
Maybe Beasley will turn over a new leaf. Maybe he'll recognize that he was veering out of control by posting online pictures with what appear to be "doob-ious" substances in the background and by posting suicidal-sounding updates on Twitter and will save his career.
Or he could turn out to be a mistake that costs the Heat $9 million, at least, and Dwyane Wade, at most.
There's a lesson to be learned here for the whole league. Instead of trending toward statistical analysis, teams ought to be trending toward psychoanalysis.
"Obviously, the hardest choices are when there's someone very talented who has issues," said the GM, whose team has been a playoff fixture in recent years. "Where we're picking, you're always picking a problem it's either going to be background or too short or can't shoot."
Better to err on the side of solid citizens. A good test case will be Jonny Flynn. Execs raved about his character before the draft, but that didn't change the fact he was 6-0 at best. Still, the Minnesota Timberwolves took him with the sixth pick, higher than the initial projections had him going. He picked up rave reviews in Las Vegas in summer league and at Tim Grgurich's private camp. I'd love to see the Timberwolves rewarded for putting smarts above the tape measure.
One problem is there's no standard way to assess someone's character. Teams consult with psychologists, construct personality profiles and give tests. Yet how often do they hold their breath that their pick doesn't have some demons tucked away?
"Only every draft," another general manager said.
Now there's another element: Twitter. For all the fretting over the social network, it's actually making life easier for GMs. If someone is willing to put all his issues out there for the world to see, there's not much left to discuss. You are what you tweet.
I just hope Beasley doesn't have Internet access in rehab because the Web is a cold, cruel place. A couple of NFL players' Twitter accounts had Beasley-related tweets that were about as sympathetic as Morris Day's "How's the family?" line to Prince in "Purple Rain."
"What is wrong with that kid Mike Beasley? His not to smart is he. Need to get his head right" -- Jermichael Finley (Green Bay Packers) "Micheal Beasly is trip'n. Life def isn't ez,that's 1 of the challenges of living" -- Keith Bulluck (Tennessee Titans)
These cold responses shouldn't prevent future players from going public with their emotions. You have to think that if the Heat insisted Beasley go to rehab, it's because of what they saw on Twitter. I'd much rather it happen this way than with a worse set of circumstances, such as one that came from a court order. This could have been much, much worse if it had been allowed to progress.
What seems apparent, especially in retrospect, is that the destination was obvious regardless of the timing.
"This thing was on a collision course," one of the general managers said.
We've seen with Beasley that a year in college doesn't make the problems go away -- and a year in the pros can make them even worse.
J.A. Adande is an ESPN.com senior writer and the author of "The Best Los Angeles Sports Arguments." Click here to e-mail J.A.