Rare is the case when one can begin with the bottom line, but in this instance it’s most appropriate. So, here it is… the bottom line:

Six points, 10 assists.

That’s the stat line for Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson in last night’s 28-point loss to the Brooklyn Nets, a team that’s clinging to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. Lawson’s counterpoint, Deron Williams, posted 16 points and 12 assists.

On paper, the difference between the two point guards is understated. There, watching in person, the chasm was palpable.

One player was engaged. One was not. One was aggressive. One was not. One led his team, dictated the pace of the game and guided an efficient half-court offense. The other did not.

Williams, who has had an up-and-down season with the Nets this year, has recently received praise by the East Coast media. Last night was the second straight double-double for the Nets point guard, and it comes off of a vow to be more aggressive.

Ironically, Williams and Lawson were in the same boat about a week ago. Both piloted teams that were going nowhere. Both were rumored to be on the trading block. Both, by most accounts, were in the midst of underachieving. But, as fate would have it, nothing happened to either player when the trade deadline rolled around, and not much happened to the core of their respective teams, either. It would seem Williams recommitted himself to high-caliber play, while it looks as if Lawson has not.

At one point, Williams was considered to be one of the best point guards in the NBA, perhaps the best. Lawson has never held that designation, instead possessing the widely held belief that one day he could reach that level. That day has never come for Lawson, and the Nuggets need to face a cold, hard truth: It ain’t comin’.

If the Nuggets are to ever emerge from futility, it won’t be behind Lawson.

Observing Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw while Lawson is running the point subtly suggests that there’s a disconnect between coach and player. From an outside observer’s vantage point, it looks as if Shaw is done trying to squeeze what’s possible out of Lawson. From the outset, that’s been the coach’s charge: Get the most out of Lawson, a point guard with monster potential.

Perhaps a bigger challenge than the coach originally anticipated, Shaw has been unsuccessful on that front. The coach’s slouched body language and shaking head suggest that he’s been defeated in the battle to optimize Lawson.

Everyone, including and especially Shaw, has seen what Lawson can do. Even this year, Lawson has averaged a respectable 14.4 points and 6.5 assists – there have been 14 games in which Lawson scored 20 or more points. He’s got the talent, the skill, the know-how.

But what he lacks is drive, consistency and leadership. No Nuggets point guard worth his salt allows a seven-game, home losing streak – the longest since 2003 – to take place. Not in Denver. Not at altitude. Not with Minnesota, Boston, Charlotte, Milwaukee and Brooklyn on the home schedule.

To be fair, Milwaukee, with 31 wins on the season, is a decent team. Then again, the point is moot, as Lawson sat that game out because he missed the team’s first game back from the All-Star break. Lawson was busy partying in Las Vegas and somehow his return plans were derailed. He failed to alert the coaching staff that he wasn’t going to make it back.

The Nuggets have dropped nine of their last 10 games. The sole win came in Los Angeles, where Lawson dropped 32 point and 16 assists on the Lakers. Yes, the Lakers are a hapless bunch, but so are the aforementioned teams the Nuggets have faced at home recently, so too are Phoenix and Detroit (both road recent losses for Denver). It seems as if Lawson picks and chooses when to assert himself. When he does, the Nuggets can be a respectable team, perhaps even a very good team with a few more pieces.

But the Nuggets can’t wait forever to see if Lawson can become that type of floor general. It’s been six years with Lawson – my how time flies! – and in the NBA, that’s long enough to “know.” Lawson is who he is – and that’s not all bad – but it’s not good enough to lead an NBA team that doesn’t boast stars who are brighter, or leaders who are stronger, than him.

After his missed flight back to Denver, Lawson took to social media and posted the following message: “Travel plans got derailed… but I’m always ready to go war with my bros… I know the season hasn’t gone the we all wanted to, but I’m a Nugget until the day I die ‪#‎nuggetsnation‬‬‬ ‪#‎letthehatecommentspileup‬‬‬”

Last night, or the night before, it didn’t look like Lawson was ready for anything. He looked passive and disinterested. He looked like half the player a struggling Deron Williams is.

Lawson tweets that he’ll be “a Nugget until the day he dies.” But if the Nuggets are to rise from the dead, he can’t be.