By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 26, 2008
NEW YORK, June 25 -- Michael Beasley couldn't believe his hazel eyes as he walked into the ballroom of a hotel near Times Square on Wednesday afternoon. About 25 reporters with cameras and microphones formed a semicircle around a table with his nameplate on it. Beasley smiled and asked, "Is that for me?"
Then he looked to his right at a table where just two reporters were seated and asked, "You guys mind if I just sit over here?" Eventually Beasley walked to his table, looking like a kid being sent to timeout. He moved reporters aside to get to his seat and joked, "See, I can't get through."
Beasley brought his sense of humor with him the day before he officially becomes an NBA player, proving that he could be loose even at a time when there is so much uncertainty surrounding the Washington area native. After weeks of being an apparent lock to go to either Chicago or Miami in the NBA draft, there was speculation that the Bulls were set on Memphis point guard Derrick Rose at No. 1 and that the Heat was developing cold feet about selecting him with the second pick.
Miami reportedly was looking to trade the second pick or pass on Beasley completely, rumors that were given more traction after the Heat invited Southern California guard O.J. Mayo to Miami for a second workout on Tuesday.
Beasley handled the talk that he could slip or get traded with relative ease and charmed reporters with his one-liners. Asked what he thinks when he hears the rumors about the Heat leaning toward Mayo, Beasley said: "I hear it, but I don't listen. In one ear, out the other -- sort of like when your mom talks to you when you're 11."
Heat all-star guard Dwyane Wade has worked out with Mayo in Chicago this summer, which has added to the speculation about Miami's interest in Mayo. Beasley was asked if he had a chance to speak with Wade in the past few weeks and joked: "He's not in my Fave Five. That's burning [cellphone] minutes."
Beasley's talent is not in question among league executives, but his playful attitude and apparent indifference has given some of them pause. He once got in trouble in high school for writing his signature on the principal's car. He refused to say what his best prank was at Kansas State, where he led the NCAA in rebounding (12.4) and finished third in scoring (26.2) as a freshman.
He loves joking around and playing video games, and he admitted on Wednesday that his days as a prankster are not over. "I'm a kid. I don't want to grow up too fast," Beasley said. "I want to live my life. People that think I'm immature, I'm not 25. I don't know why people want me to act like I'm 30."
Beasley said he doesn't understand how he developed a negative reputation or what he can do to solve it. "I still have yet to hear about my character issues," he said. "I hear that I have them, but I don't know what they are. Until someone can tell me what they are, I don't know what to fix."
He said that when he sat down for interviews with the Bulls and Heat last week, the representatives for the teams asked him half-jokingly "if I'm crazy."
Beasley managed to laugh as he said it, but the stigma of being someone who doesn't take the game seriously bugs him and his former coach at Kansas State, Frank Martin. Martin rattled off how Beasley led a team of seven freshmen into the NCAA tournament, how he set freshman records for scoring and rebounding, how he had one of the best work ethics of any player he ever has coached and how he never took a practice off.
"You don't do that unless you're serious," Martin said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon. "His team wins everywhere he goes. And yet he's sitting here, getting criticized on a daily basis for being a so-called bad character. And at 19 years of age, he's handled it with a lot more class and dignity than I would have at 42, if people came at me the way they came at him."
Beasley also responded to questions about his height. He was listed at 6 feet 10 in college, but was measured at 6-8 1/4 at the pre-draft camp. "I didn't know it was a height requirement for the NBA," Beasley said, repeating a line he used at the pre-draft camp. "If they want us to be 8 feet and above, I don't think I can do that."
Beasley said the greatest adjustment he has had to make since declaring for the draft is dealing with fame. During his visit to Chicago, Beasley said he signed an autograph for a fan, but when he got into his car to drive off, the fan kept chasing him. "I think if we had drove slow enough, he would've followed me to the highway," Beasley said with a laugh.
His visit to Miami gave him a lasting memory as well. "It rained a lot," Beasley said. "They said Miami was 85 degrees at night. So I brought shorts and flip-flops. My socks got wet."
When asked to pick his desired location to start his career, Beasley said it wasn't Chicago or Miami. "I think if I had a choice, I'd be in D.C., back at home," he said. But no matter what the Bulls or Heat decide, there is no chance that he will fall to the Wizards at No. 18.
"Wherever I end up, I'm going to be fine," Beasley said. "I just want to play, no matter what team it is, I'm going to play my hardest and play my best."
He didn't seem too concerned. "I went to Oak Hill," Beasley said of the school located in remote Mouth of Wilson, Va. "I think if I can play there, I can play on the moon."
His advice for those who don't think he's serious enough: "They need to smile more."