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The Good Ship Michael Beasley, Adrift

There were reports. There were whispers. There was a cloud of suspicion that maybe Miami Heat rookie Michael Beasley had been involved in that Rookie Transition Program hotel room party that got Darrell Arthur and Mario Chalmers sent home and in trouble.

Now, without a satisfying explanation of what actually happened that night, we learn that Beasley has been fined far more than those other guys for his role -- whatever that may have been. There is also word that he came forward with the information, which is pleasing if a little shocking. (Do you remember being 19? If you got away with something at that age -- could you fathom waiting a few weeks before volunteering "Just kidding, I was totally there!")

I have heard what really happened that night. In fact, I have heard five different versions, from ten or fifteen different people. Instead of a gossip circuit, it has been more of a gossip circus.

It just wouldn't be fair to go reporting any of that.Michael Beasley

Nevertheless, all those stories are consistent with the notion that the good ship Michael Beasley is a little rudderless at this point. Poor decision making, or no decision making at all, is evident in all the recent flip-flops.

Hire an agent, fire an agent. Spend years bonding with AAU coach Curtis Malone, then reportedly tune him out. Get drafted second overall, in a great market, but don't come to terms on many endorsement deals that would reason to follow.

And of course: Wriggle out of responsibility for anything to do with that party at the Rookie Transition Program, then come clean only weeks later.

None of those things are indictments of the character of a young man who, when I have met him briefly at the draft and the rookie photo shoots, seems to be nice, charismatic, and funny. I'm not out to condemn the guy.

He is also 19. 19! I don't consider myself that old, but he was born shortly before I graduated from high school. I didn't even know there were adults for whom that was true.

Maybe there aren't.

Maybe these kinds of messy decisions are par for the course for someone his age.

Here's what worries me though: He's at a stage where he's taking a big step up. The level of competition he's facing is about to leap. Those are times when it's all about work. When there is a lot to prove.

It's like exam day. (One of the early exams is a basic intelligence test: Can you stay out of trouble throughout the few days of the League's seminar on staying out of trouble?)

Beasley's house may not be in order -- but some other players' are. They're working it all out. All those worries, the agent selection, the marketing deals, the money management, the things your family needs from you, the trouble with the league ... it all takes time and energy.

People out there are getting better at basketball, with those things nicely arranged and taken care of by people who know what they are doing. Players with good set-ups off the court get hours a day to work on their games or to find genuine rest and relaxation. They know what to eat and when, and how much sleep they need. They are getting the most out of every hour.

At 19, youth, athleticism, and talent can overgome that lack of professionalism on and off the court. But as so many mega-talents of the past have found, that won't last forever. Some growing up must occur. The right mentors have to be found and listened to.

I don't know that, before his first NBA game, we already have reason to worry that Michael Beasley might become an NBA cautionary tale. But I do think every 19-year-old with other-worldly talent ought to at least be aware that the train to permanent stardom is easily derailed.

Basketball history is littered with tales of can't miss prospects who, because of distractions, injuries, accidents, or the pressures of the spotlight, never came close to capitalizing on their potential. Len Bias, Eddie Griffin, Dennis Hopson (nearly 30 points per game at Ohio State!), J.R. Rider, Lloyd Daniels, Tim Thomas, Reggie Williams, Marvin Barnes ... this list goes on nearly forever. They all had the talent to be All-Stars year after year. But things can go wrong.

Focus. To me, that's the antidote, to the extent there might be one. I can't prove it, but I believe that as much focus and direction as possible, and some clear priorities, could give this story the best possible chance of having the happy ending we're all hoping for.

(Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)