Chris Finch was able to get a good gauge on a number of returning players and how to best utilize their skill sets in the final games of last season.
Except for Malik Beasley.
The guard played a total of just six games under his new coach in the back half of last season. He missed the rest due to suspension and injury. So Finch is just now getting a taste of what Beasley’s impact can be on the team.
“It was tough not being able to help out the team, play the way I like to play and be out there with the guys,” Beasley said. “To sit on the sidelines was hard. I did everything I can to be involved, cheering on the team, working guys out, passing for them, whatever I could do.”
That’s not to say the Wolves coach doesn’t have some familiarity with the sharpshooter. Finch was an assistant coach in Denver during Beasley’s rookie year with the Nuggets. That’s where Minnesota is taking many of its defensive principles from, so Beasley is already familiar with that scheme.
He also had an existing relationship with Finch.
“Me and him have a great relationship. We talk about a lot of different things, family and stuff like that,” Beasley said. “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.”
Beasley was a big piece for Minnesota last season, fresh off the four-year extension he signed the previous offseason. He averaged 19.6 points per game while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range on a gaudy 8.7 attempts per game. Beasley is an important floor spacer in an offense that features dynamic weapons such as Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns.
The guard said he has the potential to improve off the ball with his cutting and running in transition, but Finch said Beasley also has put an emphasis on his decision-making and ball handling, two areas where he struggled at times during the 2020-21 campaign. Beasley’s mission is to turn his weaknesses into strengths.
“He gets run off the line so much that he can turn those opportunities into really good shots for himself and his teammates,” Finch said.
Finch has been impressed with Beasley’s improved defense, highlighting his focus on being in the right spots at that end of the floor. He’s also letting the offense come to him. Both are important attributes when playing alongside the Minnesota Timberwolves’ “Big 3” weapons.
Currently, Beasley is in the process of getting into optimal conditioning. Beasley served time in jail this summer, part of his sentencing after pleading guilty to drug and threats-of-violence charges stemming from the incident outside of his home last November when he pointed a gun at a family parked on his driveway.
Beasley was able to work out during that sentence over the summer due to work release.
“I was able to make sure I went in to work every day and go hard at that,” he said.
But after the completion of his jail time, Finch said the Wolves told the guard to take some time away to make sure his mind was mentally right heading into the season. Beasley said he needed that space, and after it, he was ready to roll. He started his season ramp-up again when the team convened for a pre-training camp trip to Miami.
“He came in a little bit probably behind his teammates naturally (with conditioning). We expected that,” Finch said. “He’s caught up to them. He’s such a workhorse, probably right where everyone else is right now.”
Even if that’s not quite true, it certainly will be eventually. Beasley is a gym rat. In Minnesota’s preseason opener Monday against New Orleans, Beasley played 19 minutes, going 3 for 8 from the field for six points.
“I thought he played well. I thought defensively he did well,” Finch said. “He didn’t make shots, but he got a lot of really good ones.”
On Tuesday, Beasley remained on the court after practice, getting added 5-on-5 time with other, less established teammates.
“I’m excited. Basketball is back. I’m ready to get to it, ready to show the world that we’re a great team,” Beasley said. “Even myself, no matter what you go through, you can push and fight.”