No Longer a Knick: Michael Beasley Goes to Hollywood

Michael Beasley is no longer a Knick.

If you didn’t watch Knicks games last season (and really, why would you?), that sentence might not mean anything to you. It certainly isn’t anywhere near the weight class of “LeBron James is no longer a Cavalier,” or “Kawhi Leonard is no longer a Spur,” or “Dwight Howard is no longer important,” or “the Warriors are no longer losing.”

But if you did watch Knicks games last season (hi, are your eyes okay?), then you’d probably be feeling what I’m feeling now that Beasley is heading to LA: robbed.

There was a very brief, bizarre stretch in December 2017 when Beasley gave hope to New York, or at least, gave the city something uplifting to tweet about. It started in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, in a game that was supposed to feature the Carmelo Anthony show in his return to the Madison Square Garden. Instead, it was Beasley, a former second overall draft pick turned NBA wanderer, who put on his own impromptu show—unscripted, unfiltered, unstoppable, unreal.

Starting in place of the injured Knicks prized superstar Kristaps Porzingis, Beasley tightened his cornrows, took off his three watches, embraced the role of go-to guy, and went to work. His first basket, a catch-and-shoot three over Anthony, was a bold heat check. His second basketball, an open three, was easy. His third basket, a pull-up jumper at the elbow over Anthony, was a statement: I got this, New York.

Beasley scored eight straight points in the first three minutes of the game. After the final buzzer, Beasley would have 30 points, missing only seven of his 18 attempts. The Knicks won by 15.

Beasley dropped 23 on Charlotte the next game, then 32 on Boston (on Boston!) the game after that. Porzingis was back for that one, but was a disaster. Again, it was Beasley to the rescue, coming off the bench to torch Marcus Smart, Al Horford, and whoever Boston defender was in front of him with pull-up jumpers, left-handed drives, Kobe-esque fadeaways, everything.

Beasley’s heroics that night had Joakim Noah, in street clothes, all pumped up from the bench; and it gave rise to a rare chant in MSG usually reserved for visitors: M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P! It was the Knicks’ highest point in what turned out to be another lost season, all because Beasley did what he promised he would do when he signed with the Knicks: score.

It’s easy to lump in Beasley with the group of oddball misfits oozing with irrational confidence, the JR Smiths and the Nick Youngs of the world. He ticks all the boxes. He calls himself The Walking Bucket. He’s allergic to elite defense. He’s got weed stories. He went to China for answers. He wears a watch on his ankle. He has theories on the capacity of the human brain. He also likes to shoot the basketball. Like, too much.

But in 74 games with the Knicks (starting in 30), he averaged 13 points and 6 rebounds per game on an ultra-efficient and super unexpected 50 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent from 3. He thrived in a garbage-dump of a situation in New York where there was offcourt drama and oncourt chaos.

At times when the Knicks were sinking back down into the laughable abyss, Beasley, of all people, kept them afloat. He made the Knicks worth watching because you were always half-expecting him to drop 30 points and say something like “I’m your favorite player’s favorite player.” Without Porzingis (and without Tim Hardaway Jr. in short stretches), Beasley made being a New York fan a bearable ordeal.

And now he’s gone, just like that.

The New York Knicks are now entering a new era, with a new coach in David Fizdale, and a new scorer in Mario Hezonja, and a bunch of promising rookies in Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson. That’s a lot of new things, and there simply isn’t enough room for an old school character like Beasley, who’s been through all the old school bullshit.

His move to LA, where he will join a healthy mix of goons and youth and LeBron James, is a logical move. It’s a reunion of sorts for Beasley and LeBron, who were once teammates in Miami before things fell apart for the Big 3. There are stories of Beasley beating LeBron one-on-one during Heat practices, but, sadly, no videos.

The only highlight of the two together was a one-minute clip of them rapping “Back That Ass Up” in a Shane Battier event from four years ago. LeBron and Beas looked good together on stage; their on-the-mic chemistry looked legit. Looks like Beasley is going to have fun in LA. This is his big break into Hollywood, where he has a new role: win a ring with The King. Or at the very least, don’t be Rodney Hood.

Beasley has spent half his NBA career fighting to acquire the elite status that was promised of him, jumping from team to team, from the US to China then back to the US, from main man to bench guy, trying desperately to prove his worth as a basketball player. He’s the type of hero you root for to win, but there’s always this sinking feeling that he might screw up. Well, his Peter Quillean quest ended surprising well in New York, and Knicks fans are, once again, robbed of nice things now that he’s moving to LA.

I would’ve enjoyed one more season of Beasley, but then again, perhaps one is enough. Beasley’s talent is never the type to stay anyway, much like a touring circus whose amazing tricks and unbelievable stunts lose appeal after repeated viewing. Next season, it’s going to be weird to watch the Knicks and not drown in the mixed emotions of fear and excitement that one can only experience from a Michael Beasley iso.

The show shifts to LA, co-starring Beasley with his fellow misfits Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, (Lavar Ball?), and the best player in the NBA. I hope they win. I hope that around this time next year, when Beasley has moved on to the next (to make room for Kawhi), Laker fans would feel the same empty longing that I’m feeling now that Beasley is no longer a Knick. That means Beasley had done his job.

Photos from Getty Images