Michael Beasley has never been shy about expressing his desire to be a great NBA player rather than just a guy with limitless potential.
In Wednesday's 92-86 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, Beasley gave fans in the Valley a brief glimpse of that greatness with what he called his "best game as a Phoenix Sun." The fifth-year pro was featured often during Phoenix's 13-point fourth quarter rally against Steve Nash and Co., scoring 10 of his game-high 27 points.
While Beasley's breakout performance was somewhat of an anomaly given the up-and-down season he's had in purple and orange, it wasn't all that shocking given the recent trend of aggression he's exhibited under interim coach Lindsey Hunter.
Since Hunter took over in place of Alvin Gentry, Beasley has averaged 18.2 points per game on 53.4 percent shooting. During that five-game span, the Suns are also 3-2.
"I get in trouble for passing the ball," Beasley told Arizona Sports 620's Doug & Wolf Thursday about the biggest change he's noticed over the last two weeks. "I'm definitely being more aggressive. I'm trying to also earn more minutes on the defensive side, so that's where that aggression comes from.
"Overall, Lindsey just wants me to be aggressive. If I make a mistake, he wants me to make it wholeheartedly, play hard and hope for the best."
Suns fans have not seen Beasley's best yet, after all the former No. 2 overall pick is just two years removed from a 2010-11 season that saw him average 19.2 points per game with the Minnesota Timberwolves. This season, however, Beasley was relegated to bench duty after a sluggish start, and through 46 games has averaged just a shade above 10 points per game.
So what does the 2008 Big 12 Player of the Year need to do to get to the elite level most projected he'd be at by this point in professional career?
"It's just about hard work and dedication, and staying humble," said Beasley. "It's working hard and putting the hours in the gym, and then applying it to the court.
"Like I've said before, I don't want to be a talented player, there's a million talented players. The great ones aren't talented, they're great."
While Beasley has said all of the right things lately, he even admits that his actions on the court don't always go hand-in-hand with his passion for the game.
It's a behavioral tendency he's trying to grow out of.
"I have to be reminded sometimes (to be aggressive)," said Beasley. "I'm aggressive when I get mad or when something doesn't go my way.
"Right out of the gate my nickname has been 'Be Easy' for my nonchalant attitude, but I'm trying to kind of get away from that. I'm trying to be a dog in every aspect of the game, from rebounds to defense to everything, guarding the best player to taking over in the fourth quarter."
Although it's encouraging to hear Beasley own up to his flaws, five games does not make a season nor does it erase his past struggles in a Suns uniform.
It's certainly a starting point, but if Beasley wants to truly live up to his $18 million free agent contract, Phoenix's new self-proclaimed dog will have to dig himself and a team out of a hole that's much larger than one late-game deficit.