Last night, news broke that the Grizzlies had reached an agreement with Michael Beasley. I'd seen somebody (I think it was Chris Vernon) tweeting that Beasley was working out with the Grizzlies, but I'd already assigned Beasley to the "Spurs" bucket in my head after reading pieces like this and this when the "Beasley to the Spurs" chatter really started going. I was sure that San Antonio was where he was going to end up, and that he'd play out the rest of his long, productive career behind Kawhi Leonard, and that Pop would love him the way he loved Stephen Jackson, and that the rest of the league would look like idiots for not scooping Beasley up when he was available and willing to work hard.
I got home from work last night and went straight into Dad Mode, which meant
taking a nap on the couch with working very hard to make sure my daughter's needs were being met, and so I wasn't paying much attention to Twitter until it was time for her to go to bed. Which meant that I was late to this Woj party:
Free agent forward Michael Beasley has reached agreement on a deal with Memphis, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) September 23, 2014
My immediate reaction was mostly one of confusion. "Why Beasley?" I asked myself. "Why would they bring in another wing when they already have six or seven?" (This is where we pause to pour one out for the recently-departed Jamaal "Grindson" Franklin. We barely knew ye, Jamaal.) "Why would you bring... that... into this locker room?"
And then I read the article that followed the tweet. He's on a non-guaranteed deal, which means that he'll be joining the Grizzlies in San Diego for training camp, and not much else beyond that; if the Grizzlies like what they see and Beasley can keep it together, he'll be on the team, and if not, he gets to go find another team to sign with.
It's not the worst situation in the world. Beasley was with the Heat last season, and he played pretty well, appearing in 55 games and averaging 8 points in 15 minutes. He didn't get into trouble off the court—a rarity for Beasley—and the Heat seemed happy to have him around. He's always had the potential to be a great player. (But then, most #2 overall draft picks have potential to be good-to-great players. Sorry, Hasheem.) If Beasley can come into the Memphis locker room—one that's now famous for straightening out head cases—and mesh well with the guys, work hard, and play within himself, he can be a valuable off-the-bench wing scorer for the Grizzlies.
But. (There's always a but.) It seems unlikely to me that it's going to get that far, for a many reasons.
Chris Wallace loves him a good reclamation project. In addition to the ones that have worked (former NBA's Least Wanted Zach Randolph and Boston Celtics Edge Case Tony Allen) there have been many that didn't—that either just never really amounted to much (The Gilbert Arenas Project) or that nearly torpedoed a season right out of the gate until Lionel Hollins brought the hammer down (The Allen Iverson Project).
Given the issues the team had last year—the slow starts, the sometimes-disconnected look of key players (especially early-season Marc Gasol and mid-season Tony Allen), and the tendency to play down to the level of competition until it was too late to catch back up—I wonder if another career-turnaround project is really what this team needs right now. James Johnson was a fan favorite but was also a little bit of a headcase (lest we forget that the guy's nickname was Bloodsport), and I'm not sure that situation was a good one in the locker room, either. Wallace has hit the jackpot more than once by bringing in guys who nobody else thinks is worth what Wallace thinks they're worth, but I have a nagging feeling that now isn't the time. Sure, these guys are professionals, but it doesn't take much to make a workplace culture that was once exceptional into something weird. Beasley is a calculated risk (assuming he makes it out of training camp, which he may not, at which point the risk is zero).
Update: None of the rest of this makes much sense since Beasley specifically signed with the Grizzlies as "a backup power forward" as the Wojnarowski article points out. Were he shooting for a roster spot as a small forward, this would still be my argument, but he isn't, and I was wrong. Mea culpa.
Beyond the locker room questions, which will probably continue to follow Beasley for the rest of his career, there's the other question of "Why would you bring in another wing instead of trying to thin out that rotation?"
That's a question I can't answer. Beasley can play basketball very well when he wants to, but with Franklin's exit and the Beasley signing, there are still seven wing players on the roster—Courtney Lee, Tony Allen, Vince Carter (Remember that? Vince Freaking Carter plays for the Grizzlies this year. That's still exciting to me), Tayshaun Prince, Quincy Pondexter, Jordan Adams, and now Beasley. Not all of those guys are going to play. All of those guys (again, assuming Beasley makes it on to the actual roster) are going to want to play. It's a logjam that needs some clarification, and I've been waiting since the draft for that clarification to come. Letting Franklin go was a move in the right direction (even though I still think he can be a quality NBA player). Adding dudes to the camp roster who might conceivably make the team is a move back in the other direction. We'll see. As it stands, the Grizzlies could put a Lee-Carter-Allen-Beasley-Prince on the floor and the other team would probably just forfeit out of sheer confusion. Maybe that's the strategy.