Friday, July 23, 2010

Beasley hopes to turn over new leaf in Minnesota

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Telling the truth has never been much of a problem for me, especially with things that really aren't going to amount to much when Saint Peter is making the decision on whether I'm fit to enter the pearly gates.

Back in 1998, I was one of dozens of columnists that thought Ryan Leaf would be a better pro quarterback than Peyton Manning. Fast-forward 12 years and I'm one of the few that still admit to that error.

Heck, Leaf had the stronger gun and was actually a better athlete than Peyton at the time, but those kinds of measurables didn't take into account the 10- cent head and spotty work ethic that accompanied Leaf's million-dollar arm.

Hindsight painted me as a poor judge of talent and the former Washington State star as not only one of the biggest disappointments in NFL history but a felon. On April 14 of this year Leaf pleaded guilty in Amarillo, Tex. to seven counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and one count of delivery of a simulated controlled substance. The court sentenced Leaf to 10 years of probation and fined him $20,000.

One little mistake shouldn't stop anyone from getting back on the horse, however, and I have done it many times over the years with some good predictions and some bad.

In 2008, I was back on the NBA beat and thought the Chicago Bulls should have taken Kansas State star Michael Beasley over Windy City native Derrick Rose.

It was certainly a defensible position. Beasley was one of the most dominant players in the country during his freshman campaign at K-State, averaging 26.2 and a nation's best 12.4 rebounds. His 866 total points and 408 rebounds ranked third and second, respectively, among all freshmen in NCAA history, and the Maryland native also led the nation in double-doubles (28), 40-point games (three), 30-point, 10-rebound games (13), and 20-point, 10-rebound games (22).

The resume' was there but the thing that put Beasley over the top for me was his size. At 6-foot-10 and 235 pounds, "Beastley" had the prototypical NBA body.

The Bulls made their decision and plucked Rose, while Miami settled for Beasley at No. 2. It certainly hasn't been the basketball equivalent of Manning-Leaf just yet, but you can bet Chicago is quite happy with its selection thus far. Rose was named Rookie of the Year in 2009. an All-Star in 2010 and has developed into one of the game's best point guards while Beasley has struggled mightily with the off-the-floor problems.

In September of 2008, Beasley was involved in an incident at the NBA's Rookie Transition Program along with fellow freshman Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur. Police responded to the hotel room of Chalmers and Arthur following a fire alarm and claimed that the room smelled strongly of burning marijuana, but none was found and no charges were filed. Beasley was eventually fined $50,000 by the NBA for his involvement in the incident after Heat basketball chief Pat Riley forced him to confess to league officials that he had slipped out the door when the police arrived.

Things worsened by the next year when Beasley checked himself into a Houston rehab facility, just days after he posted pictures of himself on Twitter with what looked like marijuana in the background. The forward also wrote a number of vague postings hinting at suicide.

Beasley emerged unscathed and actually improved most of his numbers during his sophomore season in South Beach but with Riley executing a plan to team Dwyane Wade with LeBron James and Chris Bosh, he was no longer part of the plan in South Florida.

The former second overall pick was shipped unceremoniously to the Twin Cities for a pair of second-round picks in order to clear much needed salary cap space.

One man's trash can be another's treasure and the rebuilding Wolves think they might have something in the supremely talented Beasley.

That said, Minnesota president of basketball operations David Kahn has quickly made it clear that the kid gloves are off, speaking very honestly about Beasley's perceived problems.

"Michael Beasley smoked too much pot in Miami, but he's a changed man now. Make that, changed young man," Kahn told a Minneapolis area radio station. "He's a very young and immature kid who smoked too much marijuana and has told me that he's not smoking anymore and I told him that I would trust him as long as that was the case."

It's conceivable the more laid-back, family-friendly Midwestern atmosphere is just what Beasley needs to turn over a new "Leaf" and finally become the player he should be.

"He has developed a really good support system around him this past season in Miami," Kahn said. "He is growing up -- he's not grown up. He's 21. If you had given me this kind of money and put me in this kind of world with these kinds of pressures attached to it and some of the demands, I don't know how well I would have handled it. I think that if Michael was 25 or 26, maybe I would have felt differently. Some of these kids simply deserve the opportunity to make mistakes and grow up."

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