The clear importance of veteran leadership

Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAYTwo weeks ago, the headlines coming out of Phoenix got the "Of course" and yawn treatment that only expected news could receive.

Suns forward Michael Beasley was arrested in Phoenix a few weeks ago when officers detected pot in his car after he was pulled over for speeding. It was yet another run-in with the law for Beasley that involved marijuana and another symbol of Beasley's waywardness. It seems impossible to believe now that the Bulls were legitimately debating between Beasley and Derrick Rose in the 2008 NBA Draft.

Beasley though may now be on his last chance.

This might be why the Suns brought in Caron Butler as part of the deal that netted them Eric Bledsoe. Butler, an 11-year pro is embracing his mentor role. It has been a long time since he was an All Star or the featured player of a team. Injuries have eaten away at his once flourishing career in Washington.

But he still has the ability to contribute both on and off the floor — he averaged 10.4 points per game for the Clippers last year. It is his contribution off the floor as a leader and role model that Phoenix hopes takes hold with Beasley. Jeff Caplan of NBA.com's Hang Time Blog writes about Butler's desire to be a leader:

I think there’s a lot that can be done to help him and I think one is, and this is not from the organization or anything, but it’s just for the people who are around him and love him most, is just don’t give up on him, try to help him as much as possible, build him up because he’s a star,” Butler told NBA.com during a phone interview from his new home in Phoenix. “He’s a guy that had an unbelievable collegiate career, who came into the NBA as a top-two pick, so the talent is there, it hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s like clay, it just needs to be molded right. Somebody needs to be around him, talking to him and telling him the right things and building him up and keeping nothing but positive energy around him and moving him forward instead of pulling him back.

Beasley has already played for three teams in his five-year career and is entering the the final guaranteed year of the three-year deal he signed with Phoenix last summer. According to Basketball-Reference, he is owed $6 million this year and $6.25 million next year. According to Sham Sports, Beasley has only $3 million guaranteed for 2015 (and it has to be guaranteed two days after Phoenix's season ends).

It is very likely the Suns could be satisfied with cutting their losses and letting him go shortly after the season ends and eat the final $3 million guaranteed on his deal.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/ZimbioBeasley has been in an odd place throughout his career. The talent is undoubtedly there for him, but he has never quite had the direction.

The Heat, his first two years in the league were two of his most successful years. He was playing with a relatively young Heat squad though with Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem and Jermaine O'Neal as the team's veteran leaders. You hardly heard a peep from Beasley other than questions about why he was not contributing more.

To clear cap room for LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the Heat traded Beasley to the Timberwolves. There was less of the veteran structure in Washington. He got more playing time and became a ball-dominating scorer. But Beasley started going off the rails more with the Timberwolves. Another two tumultuous seasons and he found himself a free agent signing in Phoenix last year.

Beasley obviously has some personal issues he needed to get through. His play was not cashing in on the talent he had and expectations weighed heavily on him.

For young players like Beasley, the presence of strong veteran leaders is so clearly important in player development. Wade, O'Neal and Haslem were probably a big part of keeping Beasley playing professionally through some hard years. When he got to Minnesota, the structure was not there as that franchise was lost a bit with its management and its roster construction.

When you look at a team like the Wizards, the presence of strong veterans became all the clearer.

The Wizards were too lost in a mix of young players with questionable attitudes. So gone were JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Andray Blatche and in came Emeka Okafor, Nene and Trevor Ariza. The decision to bring in those veterans began to change the culture with the Wizards.

Rob Carr/Getty Images/ZimbioNow, Washington is a trendy pick to make the Playoffs after the team finished last season 17-18. This was a team that, if not for John Wall's early season injury, could have very easily snuck into the Playoffs last year.

"It’s always important to have veterans around the team," Randy Wittman said before a late March game against Orlando. "We’ve kind of seen that here in the last couple of years when you don’t. When you have nothing but young guys there is no one realy to bounce things off of, to learn from, to watch. I think it’s important to have a mixture of that."

Veterans certainly lead the way and instruct the young players.

For the Suns, the question is whether it is too late to reach Beasley. Butler will certainly try.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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