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Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune file

NBA LOCKOUT

Beasley pursues image makeover while filling a basketball gap

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA
  • Star Tribune
  • October 21, 2011 - 2:21 PM

Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley has kept busy during an extended, locked-out NBA summer when he played ball everywhere from China to Manhattan's famed asphalt playgrounds.

He has also taken up ballet to transform his body and hired a public- relations agency to improve his image.

"I want everyone to know that I'm not this monster that they perceive," he said. "I'm a really nice guy."

To that end, Beasley has organized what he calls an "All-Star Classic" exhibition game that will be played Friday night at Osseo High School with several of his teammates and other NBA players but won't include the star power of Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, John Wall and No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams, all of whom originally committed to play.

Beasley and friends will play a regulation 48-minute game one night after NBA owners and players abruptly ended labor negotiations in New York with no end -- and no start of a season -- in sight.

"I feel like with the lockout, the main people being hurt are the fans," Beasley said. "They're the ones suffering the most. I just felt it was right to put on a game for my hometown fans."

So he and Wolves teammates Wes Johnson, Anthony Randolph, Anthony Tolliver, Wayne Ellington and Lazar Hayward will play, as will DeMarcus Cousins, Josh Howard, Mario Chalmers and Sam Young.

"That's easy," he said when asked how he'll choose teams. "It's going to be Minnesota Timberwolves against everyone else."

Love, Durant and Wall withdrew Thursday, perhaps because they have committed to a two-week, six-game worldwide barnstorming tour with fellow NBA stars Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and others.

"Business comes first: They all had obligations more important than this one, which I'm not mad at," Beasley said. "They still support the game and I support those guys. But I feel like we have enough guys. We've got some star power coming. The show will go on."

Organizers reduced prices from $60 general admission and $120 VIP reserved to $40 and $100, respectively. They said no players are being paid to play and all proceeds after expenses will go to St. Jude's Children's Hospital and three Twin Cities-area charities.

Beasley proclaimed himself completely healthy after playing much of last season despite a recurring sprained ankle and an injured hip.

He has played with childhood pal Durant and Wall in exhibition games across the country and also has incorporated elements of yoga, karate and, yes, ballet into summer workouts intended to make his body stronger, more limber and help ensure a long, productive career. He has dropped about 15 pounds after playing last season at 240 pounds.

"I don't really dance," he said. "I do it for the stretching."

Does he own a tutu?

"No, no, no, no," he replied. "I wear shorts and a shirt."

Is this just a ploy to get on "Dancing With the Stars?"

"I don't really consider myself a star," he said, "but if they want me to dance, I'll dance."

That certainly would change an image Beasley admits needs some help.

He has had a newsworthy summer: He was ticketed for marijuana possession after being stopped in Minnetonka on a traffic violation in June and pushed a fan in the face during a streetball game in New York in July.

"I'm not at liberty to talk about that," he said when asked about the two incidents. "I have pending issues, so I can't speak about that."

Friday's game, though, is another matter.

"It's definitely one step forward," he said. "I wanted to do something good with this game. I'm really misunderstood. I feel like it's time for me to stop sitting back and take action. This game really is for the fans, to bring the game back to Minnesota when there is no basketball right now."

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