Malik Beasley: 'I’d love for them to pick that option up for me to continue my journey here in Utah'

Malik Beasley: 'I’d love for them to pick that option up for me to continue my journey here in Utah'

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Malik Beasley: 'I’d love for them to pick that option up for me to continue my journey here in Utah'

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When Malik Beasley arrived in Utah as part of the blockbuster Rudy Gobert trade with the Timberwolves, there was a palpable buzz around the league that he could potentially be rerouted to another team, with the Jazz expected to tank for a top draft pick. Neither scenario has come to fruition through nearly a quarter of the regular season and everything is working very well for both sides.

Beasley leads the NBA in three-pointers made off the bench (54) and percentage of points from three-pointers (69.5) while also ranking third in total threes made (60).

In a wide-ranging interview with HopsHype, Beasley explained how Utah has surpassed expectations, why he wants to remain with the Jazz going forward, and what it’s like behind the scenes with coach Will Hardy. Beasley believes he should be a contender for Sixth Man of the Year, the three-point contest at All-Star Weekend, and the Community Assist award. Check out our entire conversation below.

What were your thoughts on the outside expectations for the Utah Jazz?

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Beasley: The expectation with us going into the season was we were all underdogs. Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, and Jarred Vanderbilt. Me and Jarred came from playoff teams. I’m not saying we were the main factors, but we did play a nice part in changing Denver into a playoff team and then Minnesota. When we came in, we heard what was expected out of us to be a tanking team, but a lot of the guys in the locker room during training camp said, “Let’s be great.” We have a nice team. If we put it together the right way, we could be really good. To start off, none of us had egos. We all wanted to prove that we’re a special team.

It took us a minute to figure out everyone’s position and how to build everybody in and grow. Even today, we’re still learning about each other. I think it’s been huge for our team to be winning, and we don’t even know each other (that long). As a veteran, in late-game situations, you kind of have to know your players and what you’re going to do. We won a lot of games to start the year in late-game situations. It shows that once we’re about 50 games in (chemistry-wise), it could be dangerous for a lot of people.

Why have you guys been able to surprise people and be at the top of the West?

MB: We want to destroy everybody. Our main thing is having fun while we’re playing. We play way better when we’re just playing. If you watch the film, a lot of the stuff we draw up is straight off reads, and there aren’t always set plays. Coach Hardy has a foundation for what we want to do. Me and Jordan Clarkson move around the perimeter a lot and cut sometimes. Lauri Markkanen cuts all the time. Vanderbilt sets good screens. If it’s serious and we try to play in the half court and be perfect, that’s when we don’t win games. All of our losses have been when we try to be too perfect. Everybody has their role and knows what they’re supposed to be doing.

What are your impressions of Will Hardy as a coach on and off the court?

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MB: He’s a great guy, truly. I’m not just saying that. It makes it even better that he’s young. Sometimes, when we’re in the locker room, he’ll call us “bro,” or we call him “bro.” It’s not just a regular head coach thing. He treats us like we’re family. He’s always telling us to have fun. Whenever you make mistakes on the court, for a first-time head coach, you don’t get that a lot. Usually, if a guy messes up, it’s a scream because people want to prove that everybody wants to win so badly. Coach wants to be great. He wants everyone to have fun. If you make a mistake, that’s the game of basketball. He even admits his own mistakes. It shows how great he is as a coach. I believe he should get Coach of the Year.

As for another award, you’re the leading bench scorer on the top bench scoring unit in the NBA. Is Sixth Man of the Year something you’re chasing?

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MB: Yes. Coming into the year, honestly, I had aspirations of being an All-Star. I felt like I have the ability to do that and make the right plays, but coach wants me to lead our team off the bench. As a seven-year veteran, I can do that for my team and understand the role. I’m at a point in my career where I want to make money, but I also want to win. I’m down for sacrificing the starting position role and doing the best I can to prove to my team that we’re all in this together. Obviously, I want to get into the three-point contest. I felt like I deserved that last year. I’m trying to continue this journey and be the best player I can be.

As for the three-point contest, if we continue to lead the league (in wins) with what we’re doing, I feel like we have a good chance of a few people going. If we stay in the top three, I feel like we can get two All-Stars in Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson. If we finish first or second, we can get me in the three-point contest and Kelly Olynyk in the skills challenge. When we go into the locker room or the plane, we always say us four guys are the most likely to get those nods.

You talked about winning the Community Assist award. Why is that important to you, and what have you done in Utah?

MB: I went to a school and talked to students. This Christmas, I’m doing a lot of coat drives. I’m trying to get out in the community. My main purpose is to change my image. I’m a great guy, I believe. I made a lot of mistakes, and I learned from my mistakes. I’m ready to change that image to I’m a great player and a great person off the court. I truly and genuinely want to do that.

What did you and your trainer Aaron Miller work on in your game before the season?

Beasley: This summer, we worked on a lot of ball handling and playmaking ability. I was working on pick-and-rolls, doing two-on-two drills, and low-man reads. I’m still getting adjusted to doing that. My game has been a lot better besides just catching and shooting. I’m trying to do more when I have the ball in my hands and make the right play for my teammate or make the right shot.

What career goals do you have for yourself looking ahead?

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

MB: I definitely want to win a championship. That’s my number one priority ever since I got into the league over being an All-Star. I want to go out with a ring. Individually, I want to win a few awards, maybe a Player of the Month award one time or be an All-Star. I set high goals. I’ve always had daydreams and visions of being a Finals MVP. I reach for the moon, so I can at least get the stars.

How was it dealing with trade rumors before the season?

MB: I’ve been in the league for seven years, so I understand there are going to be rumors. If it happens, it happens. I think the main thing I realized is that I can only control what I can control. If something happens, prove to the next team why they chose you and why the other team shouldn’t have traded you.

Have you thought about your future in Utah since they have a team option on you for next season?

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MB: I would love for them to pick that option up for me to continue my journey here in Utah. If not, then I’ve got to make the best of it. I’m very thankful for this landing spot since I came here. There are a lot of great people here in Utah and a great fan base. I think it’s the perfect opportunity to show I’m a changed man in Utah. It’s a place where big-name players usually wouldn’t come here, but I don’t know why. Once you come out here, you’ll have a great time.

How has having your second child changed life for you?

MB: That’s what I mean about Utah, it’s a family-orientated place. I was happy when I got traded here because I’ve gotten to settle down and become the man I am. My numbers are showing that because I’m not distracted by other things. I want to stay locked in and be a great father. I’ve got my son with me right now and we’re doing some Thanksgiving shopping and getting some toys. My daughter is at home with my wife. It’s a great experience. Family is more important than anything. I realized that a couple years back going through all my situations. Ever since then, I’ve been blessed to have my family.

You can follow Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) on Twitter. 

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