Portland • None of the Utah Jazz have been getting a ton of sleep lately, what with a previous three-game trip out east that included several long flights and a few stops where they didn’t land until the early hours of the morning. Then, after a two-game homestand this week, the team hit the road again for two games on the West Coast.
Still, even if they all were feeling suboptimal for a few days, every one of them would concede that no one’s been sleeping less than Malik Beasley.
Having a baby in the middle of the NBA season will do that to you.
“Yeah, it’s been tough,” Beasley said before Tuesday’s loss to the Knicks. “… Just trying to grind through it.”
That this grind is coinciding with his best stretch of basketball this season is all the more incredible.
In the six-game stretch spanning the Jazz’s Nov. 9 game vs. the Hawks through this Saturday’s victory over the Blazers, the sharpshooting wing averaged 20.3 points and 4.3 rebounds, while shooting 51.2% from the field and 46.9% on 10.7 attempts per game beyond the arc.
Two days after the team’s victory over Trae Young & Co., the Atlanta native was with wife Montana Yao as she gave birth to the couple’s second child, with new daughter Mia Love Beasley joining 3-year-old brother Makai.
The next day, he flew out to Washington to rejoin his teammates, and contributed 16 points, six rebounds, three assists, and a steal, while hitting 4 of 9 tries from 3-point range against the Wizards. Playing a back-to-back the following night in Philadelphia, he dropped 18 points, four rebounds, two assists, and a steal, while making four more treys.
In this weekend’s back-to-back set, he scored a season-high 27 points in Friday’s win over the Suns, then topped that with 29 more Saturday as the Jazz held on against the Blazers.
His team has been impressed with his fortitude.
“Obviously, having a new baby in the house presents some sleep issues — anybody with kids knows that — but I haven’t noticed it in his play at all,” said coach Will Hardy. “I think he’s played pretty well the last couple of games and he’s been very engaged in film sessions and team meetings and shootarounds.”
Mike Conley, who departed the Orlando bubble in August 2020 and missed the start of the Jazz’s playoff series vs. the Nuggets in order to return to Columbus, Ohio, for the birth of his son, can empathize with the physical and mental toll that Beasley has experienced these recent days.
Given that, Beasley playing as well as he did was quite a feat, in his estimation.
“Yeah, it was incredible. His ability to experience that and get right back on a plane and come right back to play and be as good as he’s been for us, and [to balance] his commitment to the team, his family — it’s just been awesome to kind of watch him do it all at once,” Conley said. “I know it’s tough and we ask a lot of him, but he’s been awesome.”
Beasley, asked how he pulled it all off, smiled and said simply: “Adrenaline.”
He then elaborated that he loves his job — so much so that it doesn’t feel like a job — and so he’s just been making it a point to try and have fun.
And after an up-and-down start to his first season with the Jazz, one which has seen him come off the bench in all but two games (when he started in place of the injured Jarred Vanderbilt), he finally feels as though he’s gotten into a rhythm, that he’s developing enough chemistry with his new teammates to know how best he can complement them and how they can complement him.
His teammates are seeing it manifest in positive play — and not just in draining 3s, either.
“You can just tell his confidence is continuing to rise. We’re going to need that, especially down the road,” said guard Collin Sexton. “But also right now, on the defensive side — he’s communicating and playing really well.”
Conley elaborated on where he’s seeing Beasley flourish now.
“He’s just been really, really aggressive, on both ends of the floor,” Conley said. “Offensively, obviously, he’s going to find his shot, he’s going to make his shots, he’s going to find spots to be aggressive. But defensively, he’s actually picked it up, too — he’s been aggressive on the ball.”
When told several teammates had sung his praises for his efforts on that side of the ball, he seemed genuinely surprised and appreciative.
“They have? That’s great to hear, man!” he said Friday after the Jazz held on vs. Phoenix. “I’ve been trying my ass off to guard the best players that I can.”
As for his recent prolificness on offense, the nearly-26-year-old Beasley naturally never doubted that he’d get things going.
Asked if he’d changed anything up or if the ball had simply started going in more regularly, he didn’t even allow the question to be completed before giving his answer.
“The ball is starting to go in more regularly. I don’t ever change anything,” Beasley said. “If I’m scoring 30 [or] if I’m scoring two points, I keep the same routine every time. At the end of the day, the numbers always even out. And the numbers have evened out. So I’m just trying to push forward.”
Well, that and trying to catch a few extra Z’s, when baby Mia allows.