PHOENIX - Three months ago, Michael Beasley had the ball in his hands. It was his move to salvage his career's grand promise with the on-court role and the $18 million contract the Suns awarded him.
Less than halfway into his fifth season with a third team, Beasley has bottomed out, and the Suns (11-21) have lost six straight.
In returning to his former Minnesota home Saturday, Beasley went 1 for 8 from the field with a goaltending call providing his only make. A quick fourth-quarter yank limited him to 10 minutes. On Monday in Oklahoma City, he did not play in a game when healthy for the first time in his career.
Given the enormous attention he received from the front office and the long leash of 20 starts he received from the coaching staff, Beasley has only himself to examine for why he is having his worst NBA season when he was talking about proving that he could be a maximum-salary player.
If Beasley looked in the mirror after not playing in Oklahoma City, he could not even see himself. Visiting with childhood friend Kevin Durant's friends and family inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, Beasley wore a ski mask as he assured, "I'm smiling," when asked about not playing.
"Maybe it's my fault," Beasley said. "I'm going to watch film like I've been doing. I'm going to evaluate and critique myself and go from there. There ain't nothing I can do but look forward and up. I'm already at the bottom, so there really isn't too many places I can look. ... I'm going to keep coming into this game optimistic. I put enough hours in and take enough jump shots. I'm in the gym pretty much longer than anybody in the NBA. I'm going to ... trust my game."
A mask does not hide the disappointment of his season. Beasley, the Suns' third highest paid active player, is averaging career lows in points (10.2) and rebounds (3.5). He is shooting a career-worst 37.3 percent from the field after being a 45.5 percent shooter over four seasons with 177 starts.
"I'm battling the knickknacks," Beasley said, referring to a sore pinkie finger that he said has been limited in movement. "I just closed my fist for the first time four days ago. That was pretty much half of it. I shoot about 1,000 jump shots every day."
NBA scouts are befuddled that the Suns thought they would get more out of Beasley, and they say Suns coach Alvin Gentry had to move Beasley out of the starting lineup to not lose his team.
Gentry said Beasley sat because "we had a good rotation going" with P.J. Tucker's one-time start and that the move is not permanent.
"Whatever Coach says, that's what I'm going to do, even if I have to sit on the bench with a bag over my head," Beasley said.
Co-captain Jermaine O'Neal said the team will support Beasley but "the rest is up to him."