DENVER – A few times during the Timberwolves' loss to the Nuggets on Sunday at Target Center, Malik Beasley turned to the Denver bench and appeared to say a few choice words after making a shot.
He had plenty of opportunities to do that after scoring 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting.
Beasley, who wasn't always happy with his playing time in Denver, came to the Wolves last February in a four-team trade that also brought Juancho Hernangomez to Minnesota.
The two head to their previous homes for Tuesday's matchup as the Nuggets and Wolves complete a home-and-home set of games, and in their time with the Wolves each has had the chance for more opportunities to expand their games. Beasley has picked up where he left off a season ago while Hernangomez is struggling to find his footing this season.
Beasley has solidified himself within the Wolves organization and rotation, though that has not come without controversy. He recently pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing on a felony threat of violence charge from an incident outside his Plymouth home in September.
Beasley still is awaiting potential NBA discipline related to that plea but hasn't been reprimanded by the team and signed a new contract in the offseason worth up to $60 million over four years despite the charges he was facing. From a basketball perspective, Beasley has started playing up to that deal. His past two games are more representative of what he did following the trade last season. He is 18-for-29 for 46 combined points and has taken advantage of the open looks along the perimeter the Wolves offensive system generates.
"I feel like I'm in great shape. I feel like the game is slowing down for me," Beasley said. "For the most part, I feel like Ricky Rubio and [D'Angelo Russell] have been making sure I play at my own pace. I know the ball is coming back to me, so [I'm] just making the right play, whether that's making the extra pass or making a shot for my team."
Beasley said he is starting to learn how to play off Russell, and that showed in the third quarter Sunday when the pair helped lead the Wolves to a temporary lead.
"I know D-Lo likes to probe in the middle of the lane a lot, so as we've been watching film, you can tell that you can get easy baskets if you cut off him," Beasley said. "He's a great passer, he's always looking at you, so just keep an eye on him. We're building chemistry."
The start hasn't been as easy for Hernangomez, who hasn't topped six points in any game and is shooting only 27% to start the season. Wolves coach Ryan Saunders gave Hernangomez the start Sunday in an effort to shake up the lineup and try to jump-start the 6-9 Spaniard. Hernangomez went 3-for-10 with six points.
Hernangomez, who also signed a new deal worth up to $21 million over three years, said the nine-month layoff without playing a game has been hard for him to get over but as games have started he is feeling more like himself.
"It's getting close. I feel better with my body, better in shape. …" Hernangomez said. "I think it's a matter of time until the shot is going to fall down and I'm going to play better."
If he doesn't, Hernangomez knows Saunders won't play him significant minutes. On Sunday, Hernangomez played 25 minutes, 39 seconds, a season high.
"You never know how many minutes you're going to play before the game," Hernangomez said. "It's about how good you play. We are a deep team. Everybody can show up and play really, really good for the team. So that means you have to compete extra hard."
Especially when the Wolves are without Karl-Anthony Towns (dislocated left wrist) and Josh Okogie (left hamstring) as they have been recently. The Wolves are 0-4 since Towns went out and need contributions up and down the lineup to break this slide. Beasley got back on track. Hernangomez is trying to join him there.