The first-year Timberwolves player showed flashes of brilliance but not the consistency of a go-to guy.
Minnesota Timberwolves' Michael Beasley, left, shoots over Sacramento Kings' Omri Casspi, of Israel, in the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010, in Minneapolis. The Kings won 117-116. Beasley scored 17 points for the Timberwolves.
Say this for Michael Beasley: He's well-accessorized.
The Wolves' new go-to scorer wears a headband, dreadlocks, tattoos that make his entire body look like a Ren & Stimpy cartoon, pads on his right elbow, ribs and tailbone, and white sleeves with shin pads on both calves.
He's one pad shy of looking like Reggie Wayne, and one tattoo shy of looking like Lil Wayne.
Beasley acts like a star, calling for the ball, waving off substitutions and preening after making shots. The problem on Wednesday night, as the Wolves opened their season with a 117-116 loss to Sacramento at Target Center, was that Beasley's act looked better than his actions.
Granted more minutes than anyone else on his team, and taking more shots than any of his teammates, he nevertheless disappeared for long stretches. And when your get-up screams "Look at me!" it's hard to disappear for long stretches.
In his Timberwolves debut, Beasley scored 17 points on 6-for-16 shooting and had seven rebounds, one assist and one turnover in 34 minutes. When he decided to attack the rim, he was effective. When he played passively, he reminded the sparse crowd why the Miami Heat made him available in a low-ball trade as soon as it became serious about winning a championship.
"He did OK," said Wolves coach Kurt Rambis, after losing to a bad team missing its best player, point guard Tyreke Evans. "Again, this is going to be a learning season for Mike. He's playing a position that is probably not his best position."
Beasley is a natural power forward. That's the position Kevin Love plays. I would have said that's the position Love, the Wolves' best player, occupies, but Rambis shot down that premise in his postgame news conference after Love played just three minutes in the fourth quarter of a close game.
When someone asked why Rambis held out his best player, Rambis said, "That's your opinion."
Maybe Rambis is trying for the same creative tension with Love that has marked the warm relationship between Brad Childress and Brett Favre.
Most coaches coming off a 15-win season would be scrapping for every victory. Wednesday, Rambis seemed to be in teaching mode, holding out players when they didn't perform well defensively.
So Anthony Tolliver played more than Love in the fourth, while Beasley, who could replace Al Jefferson as the Wolves' go-to scorer, played 11 minutes in the fourth, scoring nine points while playing small forward.
"He's going to have challenges defending people, shooters, working his way through picks, all the defensive concepts," Rambis said. "But I thought he was OK. He did some good things out there."
Beasley will be the most interesting of a more-interesting-than-usual collection of Wolves this season. Whether he will be interesting as a player or a sideshow is up to him.
After his first game as a Wolf, after leading his team in scoring and making a late basket to cut the deficit to one, he took off without speaking with reporters. That's a Randy Moss move by a guy who isn't nearly as accomplished as Moss.
Beasley might want to manage his image a little more wisely.
With the Heat, he averaged 15 points and six rebounds while taking off defensive possessions and losing the faith of his organization. In one game with the Wolves, he was pretty much the same guy, and Rambis did not have him on the court for the last offensive possession, when he could have made a difference.
"It's a lot of fun playing with Mike," said guard Wayne Ellington. "I've known Mike since high school, so getting to play with Mike at the top level is a lot of fun. Mike's a great guy."
More important, Beasley can get to the rim whenever he likes. "He can," Ellington said. "We've got to get him going to the rim a little bit more for us. A lot of guys can't stop him."
One guy who can is Beasley himself. On the same night when Rambis put Love in his place, he sounded as if he'll be patient with Beasley.
Shouldn't be hard. There are only 81 games to go.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org