Chris Finch didn't get much of a chance to coach Malik Beasley after he took the Timberwolves job midseason.
Shortly after Finch arrived, the NBA suspended Beasley 12 games following Beasley's guilty plea to threats of violence stemming from a Sept. 2020 incident outside his home, an incident for which he served time in jail this summer on work release.
Then Beasley hurt his hamstring in early April and missed the rest of the season.
But Finch is familiar with Beasley from Beasley's rookie year, the one year he spent as an assistant in Denver, and where the Wolves will play their second preseason game Friday.
Finch said Beasley's approach to being a professional player has changed the most since he coached
"He's such a great worker. I think he's really learned that," Finch said. "When we had him in Denver, his work was probably a little more inconsistent and misapplied. Like a lot of guys when they're young, they're hungry to prove themselves, frustrated when they don't get their opportunity. They let that affect them.
"He's gone through that now. You can tell he's comfortable with who he is as a player, what his role and impact on the floor is and just his maturity and overall approach is that of a young vet."
Beasley had the best year of his career when he was on the court. He averaged 19.6 points in 37 games and shot 40% from three-point range, an important number to help keep heat off Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D'Angelo Russell on the offensive end.
Beasley was able to work out while serving his sentence over the summer and then the Wolves gave him the last few weeks of the summer off to "get his mind right," according to Finch.
"I needed that little space," Beasley said. "I feel great and I'm ready to go."
Beasley is working himself back into shape in time for the Oct. 20 season opener and said his familiarity with Finch and his playing style from their Denver days should help him acclimate to what Finch expects despite missing most games Finch coached last season.
"Me and him have a great relationship," Beasley said. "We talk about a lot of different things, family and stuff like that. I think that's the main part and then we both like to compete. He knows that about me so I feel like we're going to be good. We have a great relationship and we're going to work a lot of things out."
Finch has to work out where exactly Beasley is going to fit in the rotation. He offered a few clues Thursday as to how he wants to utilize Beasley. Finch implied Beasley might be best-suited to coming off the bench at first given where the roster stands right now.
"We're going to use him as a way to attract as much attention as possible out there," Finch said. "His defense has been really good. I don't see his role changing too much. We've said that if you want to be a good team, you're going to have seven or eight quality starter players. He's a starter [quality] player but it may be best if the strength of his role [is] with different lineups than the starting lineup."
In other words, it might be best if Beasley comes off the bench to start. Finch also said he'd like to pair Russell with Beasley given Russell's ability to create shots.
"I think [that's] going to be key for us," Finch said. "Just because [Russell] is going to be able to get [Beasley] easy shots. Kat and Ant necessarily don't need that type of shot creation for themselves."
Beasley has said he doesn't mind starting or coming off the bench, even if he'd like to play as many minutes as possible. He has a lot to prove when he is out there and this time he hopes it's for a full season.
"I want to be on court at all times if I could," Beasley said. "Whatever the situation may be, I'm ready to play, ready to get to it and handle what's in front of me because I'm going to be one of the best players on the court every time."