Michael Beasley’s Illness and Judgment

30 08 2009

Heat forward Michael Beasley’s recent admittance into a substance-abuse program allows us to examine our judgments against those with illnesses and how that intersects with sports coverage.

When Beasley checked into the Houston-based rehab program, the public reaction was uniformly negative. The internet comments on the story ranged from aggressive lamentations on how “the NBA is all a waste of talent,” to dismissive statements like “Beasley is just another Eddie Griffin,” to the eloquent “what an idiot” and more of the same.

The lack of empathy didn’t surprise me; after my time on these internets, I have come to expect routine bile from internet commentors.

However, I did have a surprising epiphany when I thought about Beasley: people don’t care about someone who has committed a transgression. Even if the “transgression” is substance abuse and doesn’t affect society as a whole.

I suppose NBA ticket holders can be upset that there’s a possibility that he could miss some games. These ticket holders wouldn’t be able to see Beasley play basketball. But how utilitarian is that of them? A person has a drug-abuse problem and they’re upset because they dropped $50 and now, there’s a possibility that they’ll only be able to watch Dwyane Wade.

Although no one knows the details surrounding Beasley’s situation, everyone is up in arms about it. From what I know, if Michael Beasley the Basketball Player is abusing drugs, how does that affect me? Besides a peripheral transgression of a law on substance abuse — depending on the substance — what is it about Michael Beasley that makes people sick to their stomach?

Aside from a Dwyane Wade tweet, I haven’t heard any words of support for Beasley’s struggle nor have I heard any acknowledgement of the maturity it takes to check oneself into rehab.

Michael Beasley the Person is barely 20 years old. By all accounts, the substance-abuse program had been scheduled for weeks.  Multiple sources say that Beasley has been in Houston working out for the past two weeks, attending counseling sessions and undergoing clinical treatment to address stress and substance-abuse issues.

I know that most drugs are taboo in our society so when someone tries to address a drug-related problem, it’s met with cynicism and disgust. But I think we need to recognize that rehab programs shouldn’t be denigrated in the fall-out of our government’s “war on drugs.” I’m not a recreational drug user but I recognize that the stigma associated with government-approved vices (tobacco, alcohol, etc.) are very different from the stigma associated with non-approved vices.

The supposed deviancy of non-approved vices gives the public free reign to pass judgment when it really shouldn’t. Michael Beasley’s situation is a sad, private matter. Would it be different if he was on a nicotine patch or attended AA seminars?

Regardless, Beasley is a young person with a personal problem and shouldn’t be subjected to all of this maliciousness. With 24/7 sports news coverage, it’s important for us to take a hard look at ourselves, how we respond to athletes’ situations and what it is we derive from professionals sports in general.


There Is Hope

23 05 2008

Bounces can be a man’s best friend.

When a basketball bounces, the noise is a welcomed pleasure. It can bring amusement to someone’s senses. It can provide solace or relief. It can even be a diversion from the pangs of everyday life.

But the gratification of the bounce isn’t reserved just for basketballs. It can also be applied to lottery balls.

It’s amazing how much a trivial bounce can change things. In terms of the NBA draft lottery, it can change the scope of a franchise. A bounce diverted the impending implosion of the Chicago Bulls. Here is what a bounce can bring:

Leverage for the head coach vacancy

Suddenly, a cast of inexperienced young players transforms into a bunch of potential-filled commodities. Even if a potential head coach doesn’t think much of a #1 draft pick, the confidence and pride that it injects into the franchise is immeasurable.

Things start to look up and John Paxson should mention #1 draft pick more than Rudy Giuliani mentions 9/11. The Bulls now have a tangible draw for a coach along with an opportunity to install a new system.

A revitalized roster

I’m certain that the returning Bulls aren’t buying into all of the savior talk that inevitably accompanies a #1 pick. However, the pick helps change the opinion on almost all of the returning players. Increased by Mike D’Antoni’s feigned interest, people think highly of Chicago’s roster.

Their players can be effective in a defense-centric system — as seen under Scott Skiles — or it can be effective in a high-powered offensive system. Imagine Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas, Thabo Sefolosha and Joakim Noah running full-speed at the hoop. Kirk Hinrich has somehow lost his “shooter” label from Kansas but is still a very capable scorer and distributor. Andres Nocioni can go off for 35 on any given night. Drew Gooden is used to running lanes from his days with LeBron James. These guys can be dangerous in the right system.

Renewed fan interest

The United Center sells out regularly. It was very difficult to get a ticket when Corey Benjamin was playing. And although a lot of Bulls ticket purchasers are fair-weather, imagine what Michael Beasley can do for ticket sales. Even if they had no idea who Michael Beasley was, there’d be plenty to talk about.

“Hey, Gloria, did you hear that the Bulls got Michael Beasley?”
“No! They did? Does he play basketball?”
“Yeah, he’s the first overall pick. He’s good.”
“Wow, I can’t wait to tell my husband and go purchase a package of 10 tickets.”

Hell, I’d pre-order a #30 Beasley jersey right now.

Michael Freaking Beasley

Should they execute a need pick or a best overall pick? Hmm, let’s see… should I give a starving man bread or a TiVo?

I cannot emphasize this enough: the Chicago Bulls need to keep this pick and they need to draft Michael Beasley.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t harbor any ill-will towards Derrick Rose. I love him; he’s a tremendous collegiate player. But the Chicago Bulls organization need a big man.

Size, offensively, has been a glaring need for the past several years. When you have an opportunity to draft the most versatile lottery big man since Antawn Jamison or Lamar Odom, you take him. The Bulls are missing dynamic so you draft dynamic.

John Paxson has always been someone who made the easy play. When Michael Jordan kicked it out to him, he didn’t pass up an open shot. Paxson wouldn’t put it on the deck and try to tomahawk it over Patrick Ewing. He would make his bread-and-butter play: a wide-open jumper.

Sometimes, the biggest plays are the simple ones.

When the ball bounces your way, don’t over-think it.

Make the shot.

Photo credit: AP/Charlie Riedel

Nightmare on Madison Street II

21 05 2008

Since 2000, the Chicago Bulls have selected the following big men in the first round:

Joakim Noah
LaMarcus Aldridge
Eddy Curry
Marcus Fizer

I can see David Stern coming out from underneath that NBA Draft logo. He’s smiling as he shows the New York audience a ballot with the Chicago Bulls logo. Stern approached the podium with delight.

After months of anticipation and hype, with the first pick in the 2008 NBA draft, the Chicago Bulls select…

Brook Lopez! A center from Stanford!

Did Kansas State’s Loss Hurt Beasley’s Draft Position?

28 03 2008


There’s been talk about how Kansas State’s second-round loss to the Wisconsin Badgers will hurt Michael Beasley’s draft status.  Let’s just de-bunk this theory immediately with the case of Kevin Durant.

Durant was a highly-touted NBA prospect who tore it up during his freshman year at Texas.  His freshman-loaded Big 12 team won their first-round game and then was eliminated after that.

Fast forward to this year and Michael Beasley.  Freshman tearing up the season?  26.2 points, 12.4 boards, 1.6 blocks while shooting 53.2% from the field.  Those points, rebounds and his field goal percentage better Durant’s, by the way.  So did Beasley tear it up?  Like Paris Hilton getting her credit card statement. 

This season’s K-State team was essentially Beasley, Bill Walker (another promising freshman talent) and the other freshmen.  K-State rookies accounted for 80.1% of their team’s points on the season.  Granted, K-State does have a lot of freshman, but that’s still ridiculous.  Beasley and Walker, alone, score 54.2% of the team’s points.

So let’s run through why K-State’s loss won’t affect Michael Beasley’s NBA draft stock.  It all boils down to rationalization but that’s how NBA front offices work.

Let’s be honest: Kansas State was never expected to do much.  Their game against Southern California was a toss-up but it wouldn’t have been disastrous had they lost.  Thaddeus Young was a lottery pick after a first-round loss in last year’s tournament.  Beasley and Young are basically the same type of player and supposedly have the same ceiling.  Obviously, Beasley is much more skilled at this point but nevertheless.  Beasley’s tournament games might as well have been ref-ed by his mom because he comes out winning regardless of the outcome.

Frank Martin’s menacing eyebrows and his X’s and O’s were left out to dry by Bo Ryan.  Wisconsin’s Ryan had K-State’s head coach read like a People magazine in a plastic surgeon’s office.

And it wasn’t done without a lack of effort from the K-State players.  Bill Walker straight-up balled in their second-round loss.  Walker did his normal clean-up after Beasley routine.  Beasley was in foul trouble, as usual, but he played enough to showcase his skills and grit agains a physically bigger, blue-collar Badger squad.

Athletic tweeners generally cannot hurt their draft stock with their tournament play.  This statement may come as a surprise but height and hype does make up for lots of shortcomings.  Blasphemy, I know.  Just don’t tell my mama that I said that.

The B-Easy was able to propel himself into a consensus top 3 pick during the conference season.  He displayed superior athleticism, an ability to hit consistently from the outside and a real mean-streak.  Each of his rebounds made a noise on TV like he was Inspector Gadget inhaling the boards.  Our expectations for him in the post-season play were slim to none and so he was able to coast.  Word on the street is that he’s having a “tough” time deciding whether to make the jump to the NBA.  I say go, go, go gadget flow.