Now is the time for Malik Beasley. The rising second-year Nuggets shooting guard is, in effect, getting the keys to this year’s summer league team. Nuggets coaches want to see what he can do as the focal point of the offense, and Beasley is eager to show he’ll not steer the car anywhere but straight down the road.
“I can’t just go out and drive it fast,” Beasley said. “I have to make sure I work hard, stay in the gym, stay humble. I have to lead by example, not just talking but by going hard on the court. I’m ready to take this car.”
Through three practices Beasley’s explosiveness has already stood out, said Nuggets summer league coach Micah Nori. The Nuggets are prioritizing Beasley and forward Juancho Hernangomez, and Nori will make sure each gets his chance to shine.
“Exactly right,” Nori said. “Malik, hey this is your team; this is for you. This is for Juancho. This is for a lot of guys. But Malik is the priority, right at the top of the priority list. This is a chance for him to go out and play 35 out of 40 minutes or 30 out of 40 minutes and just take this thing over.”
Beasley is coming off a season in which he bounced between the big club and the NBA Development League. He finished the season with a flourish, starting at shooting guard in each of the last two games and averaging 16.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals. He shot 48.2 percent from the field and the Nuggets won both contests.
Asked if that momentum can still carry over weeks later, Beasley nodded but hedged..
“It’s great momentum and it was a great thing to do, but that was last year,” Beasley said. “I’m ready to improve this year, ready to get back on the floor this year and show everybody what I’m about.”
So much of that, Beasley said, is staying on the course he’s already charted.
“I want to be the same person I am,” Beasley said. “How hard I work, how hard I play. I just want to show…what I’m capable of doing and what my potential can be and how good I can be.”
Hard work has never been an issue for Beasley, and no Nuggets player has been in the gym more than he has since the end of the season. Asked what he wants to see out of Beasley during these next couple of weeks, Nori’s answer was simple: continued growth.
“I just think you want to see the growth,” Nori said. “He’s very explosive. Coming out of college he led the ACC in transition points, so you know he can run the floor. You want to see him get out, you want to see him run, make sure he can make plays off the bounce and defend multiple positions. What I’m trying not to do as a summer league coach is put these guys in a box and run a lot of sets. No, let’s let them play basketball. Let’s defend, let’s get out and run. It’s a lot more fun. It’s more exciting. And then you can really see what they can do.”
QUICK HIT. Tuesday was the second day of practice for the Nuggets summer league team, but it was the third practice they’d been put through. The team had two practices on Monday. “The only thing that you always worry about in summer league is just the energy and effort,” Nori said. “The first day they expend a lot of energy, a lot of nervous energy, excitement to be in there. So, you expect a little bit of a lull today, but we didn’t really have it. Our guys were good; our guys tried to stay focused.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com or @chrisadempsey on Twitter.