Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson is flying under the radar – right where he’s comfortable.
The third-year guard talks to you like he’s in his favorite recliner – only breaking his calm expression to grin here and there. And when he is on the court or surrounded by tape recorders, the knock on Lawson is it appears he’d rather pass than take control.
But now, there’s talks of hopeful change.
Upon the arrival of former Nuggets big man Nene, whose Washington Wizards beat the Nuggets 112-108 Friday night, head coach George Karl said he doesn’t want Lawson to fall into the same role Nene was glued to for seven years in Denver.
“I think Nene is a team player to a fault. I think when we made all the changes, we wanted Nene to step forward and become more assertive and more demanding,” said Karl about Nene’s role after the Nuggets shipped away Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. “On the same end, it’s like Ty Lawson. Ty sometimes isn’t assertive enough. Sometimes, your best player has got to say, ‘Give me the ball. Give me the responsibility.’”
Last season, Lawson played like an All-Star, as Karl said he was the top-three or -four point guard in the Western Conference.
But after signing a four-year, $48 million extension back on Halloween, Lawson has been hit or miss this season. The 5-foot-11 North Carolina alum has a lower shooting percentage (49 percent to 41.3), free-throw percentage (82 to 71) and points per game average (16.4 to 14.5) than he did a year ago.
And while assists are slightly up, going from 6.6 last season to 6.8 in 41 games this season, his overall consistency has wandered.
For instance, on Tuesday he wowed with 21 points and 14 assists in a win over Portland. But the next night, Wednesday, Lawson scored two points, threw out one assist and committed four turnovers in his 20 minutes at Oklahoma City during a 48-minute long pounding from the Thunder.
And Friday night, Lawson scored 29 points, but his potential game-tying layup was blocked down the stretch in the loss.
Despite these stats, though, teammates, and even Karl, say Lawson’s value can’t be replaced.
“As soon as you can coach just by statistics, I’m done,” Karl laughed.
In fact, teammates Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala said Lawson has been a big part in helping the Nuggets win games they “had no business winning.”
“We have won some games where we come back at the end and (Lawson) has been a big part of that,” Iguodala said. “When Ty is playing well, we’re really tough to beat.”
Miller added that Lawson’s tempo puts the Nuggets on another level. The 13-year veteran emphasized that they have to be a run-and-gun team to keep up with the NBA elite.
“We want to take advantage of his speed and me throwing the ball up court for easy baskets,” Miller said. “If we aren’t up-tempo, we’re an average team.”
Meaning, the Nuggets are average when Lawson is average. The next step depends on him.
* Iguodala said he has developed a great chemistry with Danilo Gallinari… “When Gallo and myself are playing well at the same time, I don’t think there are too many teams that can beat us,” the Olympian said. “I think we feed off each other very well. When we’re both making shots, we are tough, really tough.”
* Karl supports fellow-cancer survivor Lance Armstrong despite his omission… “When I was playing, if I was offered something that wasn’t illegal, I don’t know if I’d have the ethics to say no,” he said.
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