''I'd like to thank the organization for believing in me,'' Michael Beasley said in July, ''giving me another chance, a better opportunity to grow as a person and a player.
"It makes me feel good that someone actually believes in me and someone is willing to give me a chance."
UPDATE: My bad. Michael Beasley showed up on September 14 to his first informal workout, shown here on suns.com. He looked buff compared to his teammates, which means either he bulked up or they are really skinny. You decide. Still, he was at least two weeks later than his teammates.
That was July. This is September (the 15th to be exact), just two weeks before arguably the most important season of Michael Beasley's career officially begins.
Guys are allowed to be anywhere they want to be. Media Day is not until October 1, immediately followed by a 5-day training camp in San Diego, and then the daily games/practice schedule starts up for the next seven months nonstop (eight if you're good enough).
Yet, when nearly every other able-bodied soul under contract is already hanging out together and playing pickup games, and visiting places like Phoenix Children's Hospital to donate money and personal time, shouldn't an otherwise unencumbered 23-year old fighting for his NBA stardom, nay his NBA future, be with them?
And when a front office has clearly hung their future on the rebirth of a former #2 overall pick, paying him more money and more attention than any other NBA team would do, doesn't it behoove the player to show initial excitement and loyalty by starting the rebirth process as early as possible?
Paging Michael Beasley.
I understand taking care of your own business for as long as possible (working out with mentor Norm Nixon, playing pickup games in California) before spending every waking day for seven consecutive months with the same 20-25 players, coaches and trainers and another half-dozen beat reporters asking you the same questions over and over.
I understand clinging to your new touchstone and mentor, Norm Nixon, for as long as possible.
But Michael Beasley is fighting for his NBA career. Sure, he's got three guaranteed seasons on this contract, but that shouldn't be good enough. Anything less than NBA stardom should be a failure in Beasley's eyes. He was the #2 pick in the 2008 draft for a very good reason.
For some reason, the mercurial - and a little goofy - Michael Beasley just barely arrived in Phoenix. He is not yet running the court with his new teammates, who by the way are of like age and mind. They, too, want to establish their NBA futures. Why not align yourself with them and rise together?
Goran Dragic wants to be a great NBA point guard. He would do well to learn as quickly as possible where their second or third most-talented player should get the ball to produce the most efficient offense.
Wes Johnson and PJ Tucker want to prove for the first time they belong in the NBA. And oh by the way, they want Beasley's minutes. Building a strong relationship with the team will at least afford them the opportunity to prove it.
Jared Dudley is establishing his leadership of this relatively young team. Beasley would do well to ingratiate himself with Duds.
The venerable Luis Scola is already here, despite having taken little time off for his relatively aging body to recuperate from the Olympics.
Every other Phoenix Sun is here, except Marcin Gortat who just played his last tournament game for Poland barely a week ago. He needs time to rest and recover before the grueling season. And except Jermaine O'Neal, he of 17 seasons in the NBA and a fairly certain role on the team as second or third center.
The time is now.
Whoever earns the role of leadership - Scola, Dragic, Dudley, Gortat - will want players around them who really care about the team. What does it say when Beasley doesn't show up as early as possible to start training with his new team?
Maybe nothing. Maybe a lot.
A lot has happened this summer. A whirlwind of activity surrounding the draft and free agency tapered off to a drizzle as August crawled along. Now summer's oppressive reign is nearly over. Basketball season arrives to usurp the cruel tyrant from its blistering throne. While the desert is starting to cool off, it's about to start scorching on Planet Orange.
Next Starts Now starts Monday, October 1st.
That is when the Suns host their annual Media Day from 10-noon before heading to their traning camp at the RIMAC Arena (Recreation, IntraMural, Athletic Complex - like that really needed an explanation) at the University of California San Diego.
PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns officially open their 45th NBA season on Monday, October 1, when the club hosts its annual Media Day on The Annexus Group Practice Court at US Airways Center. This season, for the third time, the Suns will report to San Diego, Calif. for training camp from October 2-6.
Media Day is Monday, October 1 with interview and photo availability from 10 a.m. to noon on The Annexus Group Practice Court at US Airways Center. At the conclusion, the team will depart for San Diego.
The training camp workout schedule begins at the University of California San Diego’s RIMAC Arena on Tuesday, October 2 and continues through Saturday, October 6.
The Suns will participate in two-a-days (10-noon & 6-8 pm) from Tuesday through Friday and close out the week with an intrasquad scrimmage at noon on Saturday. There will be media access to portions of the practices, so get ready for some legitimate basketball news (No, Jared Dudley's twitter stream doesn't count) headed into the preseason schedule.
The full preseason schedule can be viewed here.
It's easy to carry a lifetime of hate for players on other teams who shot daggers into the Suns' hearts and hopes in playoffs past. Just saying the names of players like Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Mario Elie, Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher can make a Suns fan's blood boil.
But what about lingering hate for a current or former Sun? Is there such a thing?
This is a tough one. Folks in Phoenix don't naturally harbor hatred toward current or former Phoenix Suns players. Sure there's disappointment when a player does not reach his potential, which can often be perceived as "hate" by apologists for that player.
But long-lingering, collective hate among the fanbase? That's a tough sell. Yet there are one or two one former Phoenix Suns who stand out as universally-hated players to me. That they even played for the Suns at one point still makes me shake my head in disgust, and ruins an otherwise loving memory of the Colangelo's tenure.
Phoenix Suns fans from "back in the day" in the early 90s - the Charles Barkley era - remember how the Houston Rockets shoved the Suns out of the playoffs in consecutive seasons in 1994 and 1995. Both times, the Suns took the early series lead (2-0 and 3-1) only to lose in 7 games.
Hakeem Olajuwon was the Rockets' best player and one of the most dominant in the game of basketball. He was bigger than any Phoenix Sun and controlled both ends of the court. But Suns fans harbor no ill will toward Hakeem. In fact, I cannot recall even a single bitter fan throwing barbs at Olajuwon's character or game, then or now. For some reason, we loved the guy even while he was killing the Suns.
But that doesn't mean we loved all of the Rockets. In fact, quite the opposite. I cannot, to this day, name another player on that Rockets team that we don't generally dislike no matter how many more teams they played for. In 1994, Otis Thorpe was the team's second-best player, manning the front line with Hakeem. In 1995, they'd added Clyde Drexler. I'll bet many Suns fans don't recall Otis or Clyde that much.
The guys that I remember, and hate, are three role players from those teams who didn't start but always found a way to hit a dagger shot to keep the Suns from prevailing.
Just typing those names raises my heart rate.
A good sign that a player got under your organization's skin? Overvalue him at some point in the future. Still unfathomable to me is that, just a year later, the Suns traded their sun, moon and stars for two of those guys! Two guys who hadn't even established themselves as NBA stars. Yet they'd played well against the Suns, so why not acquire them?! Ugh.
Robert Horry hated being in Phoenix and Phoenix hated having him. He brought nothing to the table and even once threw a towel in coach Danny Ainge's face during a game, apparently unwilling to put forth the effort that Ainge was calling for. Horry was traded very quickly after that to the floundering Lakers for former Sun Ced Ceballos, who himself had caused a stir by taking a long, unapproved, jet-skiing weekend off in the middle of the season. The fact that Horry went on to win six more championships as a bit player - one of them after knocking Steve Nash into the scorer's table - just adds more dirt to the bad taste he left in Suns' fans mouths.
Sam Cassell did not even last as long as Horry. He was traded barely two months into his first Suns season to Dallas in a package for Jason Kidd. Dallas had tried and failed to create a young super-team of guard and wing talent in Jason Kidd, Jim Jackson and Jamal Mashburn. The purge started with Kidd going to Phoenix. A year later it was over when Cassell was yet traded again, this time to New Jersey along with Jackson for Shawn Bradley and others.
So at least the Colangelos wised up and got rid of those guys quickly.
Cassell grew into his own after hitting New Jersey, his fourth NBA team. He played well, to the tune of 19 points and 8 assists per game, and then later made an All-Star team in Minnesota next to Kevin Garnett. (Interestingly, Cassell went to Minny for Stephon Marbury, who was later traded to Phoenix for Jason Kidd, who had earlier been traded to Phoenix for Cassell).
And then there was Mario Elie.
Mario Elie himself had a long career as a bit player that started out by hitting daggers against the Suns in the playoffs. Elie eventually played for several NBA teams over an 11 year career that culminated in a bench role in Phoenix in the 2000-01 season.
It is safe to say that, as former Suns players, these three still generate the most angst in this Suns fan's psyche. I loved Jerry and Bryan Colangelo, but I love them less because they had the gall to acquire each of these guys in future years to play for the Suns. Luckily, their Suns tenures were short.