Ty Lawson Aims To Sign Long-Term Deal With Nuggets
By Benjamin Hochman
The Denver Post
LOS ANGELES — Nuggets president Josh Kroenke walked by as Ty Lawson, asked Saturday about summer plans, said he will be a spectator at the Las Vegas summer league to "see what our young guys are doing."
"Young guys?" Kroenke said with a grin. "Aren't you a young guy?"
It was a funny little moment, but also symbolic. Indeed, Ty Lawson is now an NBA veteran.
Lawson made major strides this season — his first as a full-time starter — notably in the first-round playoff series against the Lakers. The Nuggets lost Game 7 at the Staples Center on Saturday.
Asked about possibly getting a contract extension from the Nuggets this summer, Lawson told The Denver Post: "It's definitely a goal. I want to be here long term. I'm pretty sure my agent and Masai (Ujiri, the Nuggets' executive vice president of basketball operations) will talk this summer."
Next season will be the fourth in the NBA for the 24-year-old guard from North Carolina, who averaged 19 points and six assists and shot 51.4 percent in the seven-game series against the Lakers.
Asked Sunday about Lawson, Ujiri said: "He's going to be a big part of the Denver Nuggets. We're excited. Ty is going to grow even more. He made a little jump, and he'll continue to make jumps as he gets older."
The Nuggets can negotiate with Lawson and his representatives in July. It's possible that he could get up to a five-year contract. Lawson has one more season on his current deal.
The Nuggets have made it abundantly clear they are building with young players. Denver locked up Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler this season. Kenneth Faried, who averaged a double-double in his first playoff series, is still on his rookie contract. Arron Afflalo signed a long-term contract before this season began. And Ujiri previously said it's the Nuggets' goal to keep JaVale McGee, a restricted free-agent center. All are 26 or younger.
"I'm just excited to be part of a great organization," said McGee, who averaged 9.6 rebounds, 8.6 points and 3.1 blocked shots in the series against the Lakers, his first postseason after playing for Washington. "(Playing for the Nuggets) was the best experience I've ever had in basketball. It's just an honor to be a part of this team. This was a great team before I came, so I just tried to add to it. It's a great organization and coaching staff. They put me in more situations that were more suitable for my game."
But Lawson is the motor of this team, arguably the fastest in the NBA. And when the Nuggets were facing elimination, beginning with Game 5, he ascended better than perhaps any of his teammates. He scored only nine points in Game 5, but he had eight assists and no turnovers — and the Nuggets won.
Then he erupted in Game 6, scoring 32 points. He hit 5-of-6 shots from 3-point range and didn't commit a turnover. The Nuggets won again.
Back in L.A. for Game 7, he scored 24 points. He also had six assists and five rebounds. Yes, Kobe Bryant defended Lawson in the fourth quarter and kept him from taking over. Yes, the Lakers won the game and advanced. But Lawson clearly kept Denver in it.
"He was amazing all year long and when the playoffs came around, he got even better," Afflalo said of his backcourt mate. "I don't see any stop in his growth. He'll be much better next season."
Lawson didn't become Denver's starting point guard until February of the previous season, after the Nuggets included veteran Chauncey Billups in the big Carmelo Anthony trade to the New York Knicks.
One hundred starts into his NBA career, Lawson has averaged 15.9 points and 6.6 assists in those games.
He's still learning the nuances of pro basketball. Nuggets coach George Karl often talks about Lawson's aggressiveness, which needs to be perpetual. There were games in which Lawson would defer too much, other games in which he wouldn't penetrate enough. And much has been made about his laid-back personality, which differs from that of Billups.
But all signs point to this point guard ascending even more next season, perhaps solidifying himself in the second echelon of Western Conference players at his position — behind Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook.
"Next year, we're going to be even better," said Lawson, who also will spend much of the summer in Denver and Miami. "We showed a lot of heart. I think we all grew together. We're a young team. We're growing and getting better. ... It's a learning curve. I don't want to compare us to Oklahoma City, but the first time they were all together in the playoffs, they took the Lakers to six games and the next year, they made that step."
Benjamin Hochman: 303-954-1294 or firstname.lastname@example.org