GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Some believe New York Knicks management wants to tank the 2017-18 season to ensure a high pick in next summer's NBA draft. If that's the case, Michael Beasley certainly isn't on board.
In a wide-ranging interview at the Knicks' training facility on Tuesday, Beasley touched on preseason expectations for the team (playoffs), playing alongside Carmelo Anthony (his mentor), a new diet (he's 20 pounds lighter) and why he still has a chance to be "the best player in the NBA."
The Knicks are a playoff team "if we do it right:" "If Tim Hardaway Jr., Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and myself [are on the same roster] -- those are four guys that can score 25 points per game. Then you add in Lance Thomas, Kyle O'Quinn, Joakim Noah [whom Beasley said looks great and has '25 abs'], let's not forget about that All-Star. It's up to us to put it together, just like it was up to them last year. Whatever happened last year is what happened. But I'm here now, and I'm going to do everything I can to get everyone on the same page -- even if that page is beating me up every day in practice. Whatever I have to do to get us to come together on the floor is what I'm going to do. Do I see us better than a 30-win team in Vegas [one Las Vegas sportsbook has the Knicks' over/under at 30.5]? Listen, I don't even go to Vegas. So, yeah, I do. I think we've got a position to be not only a playoff team but a 5-, 6-seed team if we do it right."
The Knicks haven't made the playoffs in the past four seasons, but it seems plausible that they can break that streak in a weak Eastern Conference -- if Anthony is still on the roster. It's unclear which direction they will go in at point guard -- or if they'll be able to get it together on defense -- but offense shouldn't be an issue. One problem with Beasley's theory? It would buck historical trends if any of the players he listed averaged 25 points per game.
Hardaway Jr. has a career high scoring average of 14.5 PPG in 2016-17, and has scored at least 25 points in 12 of 281 career games.
Beasley has a career high scoring average of 19.2 PPG in 2010-11, and has scored at least 25 points in 41 of 509 career games.
Porzingis has a career high scoring average of 18.1 PPG in 2016-17, and has scored at least 25 points in 15 of 138 career games.
Anthony has actually averaged 25.0 PPG in seven of his 14 seasons, but has not hit that mark in any of the past three seasons. In that three-year span, Melo has scored 25 or more 74 times in 186 games.
Beasley still wants to play another 15 years, establish himself as one of the best in the NBA:
"I'm still young, bro. I'm 28. I plan to play at least until I'm 43. So you do the math. My career is like none other, I think. I've wanted to be [at a high level] so long, but this or that, whether my fault or someone else's fault, kept me [at a lower level]. I still think I have a chance to be one of the best in the NBA. I'm your favorite player's favorite player. And it's not enough for me for him to know that. I want the world to know that. So I'm still working hard as if I can be the best ever. If you doubt it, if you don't believe it, it will just make my story that much better."
Of his career, which has included stints with six teams in 10 seasons, Beasley added: "Do I wish it could be different? Yes. Do I wish my career could have been more lucrative than it has been so far? But like I said, harping on the past does nothing. All I can do is pray for this opportunity, pray that this can be a better one and play basketball -- have fun.
"I am not as bad a defender as you say I am," Beasley added when asked about his defense. "Not you particularly, I just mean everybody. Like my help-side defense has been ... I'll give you that."
Beasley also offered statistical support when discussing his place in the league -- and how he'd like to be viewed.
"I've came in and out of this league. Every year my per-36 [minute average] has been top of the league. And still everybody looks at me as a bust. I just want an opportunity to play more than 15 minutes. And you know if I play more than 15 minutes I'm going to score more than 15 points. And if I can do that for 82 games, that's an All-Star level. I don't know. I'm just talking. I just want an opportunity to play basketball. I just want the respect I deserve. Not for what I can do in the future but what I've done in the past. And I just want a fair opportunity, a fair chance, a fair shot to play basketball."
Beasley, like most professional athletes, is extremely confident in his ability. That confidence shows in the quotes above. No objective NBA observer expects Beasley, who averaged 9.4 points in 16 minutes for Milwaukee last season, to establish himself as a top player. But coaches, teammates and front-office members will appreciate Beasley's confidence.
Beasley's looking forward to playing with his mentor, Carmelo: "If you watch my game, really watch my game, my jab series, all that, I'm literally just Carmelo on the left side of the floor," Beasley said. "Like I've known Carmelo since I was 13 years old, one of my best friends, one of the best players I've ever met. Me and him are from the same area. I can't wait to play with him."
Beasley was asked about the idea that he'd replace Anthony at small forward if/once Anthony is traded. "I don't think about it at all. Like, I don't know what's going on. I don't watch TV. I don't watch anybody else's saga but my own. I'm coming into the Knicks and I'm looking forward to playing with Carmelo. Anything else is the organization and the coaches and him. But I'm actually looking forward to having a great year with Melo and finally being in the playoffs."
The Knicks still prefer to trade Anthony, and people who've spent time around Anthony recently came away with the impression that he still wants to be traded. So in a perfect world for both Anthony and the Knicks, Anthony will be traded at some point this season. Given that awkward predicament, Beasley might not spend a ton of time with Anthony in New York.
Beasley said he has lost about 20 pounds in the offseason: "Yeah, thanks for noticing," Beasley said with a laugh when asked if he was lighter. "Yeah, man, I cut my diet. No more sugar, I eat two burgers or two steaks a month, one chicken sandwich a week, I'm like literally a step from vegan, so thanks for noticing, bro, you're my new favorite.
"The older you get the more your body starts to reject certain things. My body just started to reject harsh meats -- I love chicken fillet, so took me a while to change. But yeah, man, don't eat a lot of candy, eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, starches, beans, fish. I have my chicken sandwich once a week, cheeseburger, cheesesteak twice a month. I got a lot more energy, my body fat is zero, so I feel great."
A lighter body can only benefit Beasley, who is just 28. He seems eager to play more minutes (he averaged 16 minutes per game last season), and a lighter frame can help him handle increased minutes.