Posted Jun 26 2009 12:55AM
DENVER (AP) -- The Denver Nuggets landed the reserve point guard they coveted in Ty Lawson, who's expected to take some wear and tear off Chauncey Billups while serving as his protege.
The Nuggets traded a future first-round draft pick to Minnesota for the rights to North Carolina point guard who led the Tar Heels to the national championship.
Denver needed a reserve point guard to spell Billups, who tired out toward the end of the Western Conference championship after leading the Nuggets within a whisker of their first trip to the NBA finals.
"In the playoffs, I think we might have wore him out a little bit. But everybody does that. All teams wear out their good players in the playoffs," said coach George Karl, who would like to limit Billups' minutes next season to 30-35 minutes.
Mark Warkentien, the Nuggets' vice president of basketball operation and reigning NBA executive of the year, said Lawson will have to earn his minutes next season, however. If Karl has his way, Anthony Carter will be back next season, so Lawson will have his work cut out for him carving out minutes on the court.
"That's a job that has to be won," Warkentien said.
Still, the smart money is on Lawson having an immediate impact next season.
"Obviously, he's got blazing speed and that's something you can't teach," said Rex Chapman, vice president of player personnel. "He shoots a really straight ball. When he's open, he's got terrific rotation, terrific form and I expect it to go in. As far as how long it's going to take, a lot of that's up to Ty. He's going to come in here and he's going to have to earn it, just like any other player does.
"But being able to play behind Chauncey Billups, with Chauncey Billups, alongside him everyday and against him in practice is going to be an invaluable tool for this kid to progress," Chapman said.
Lawson said he can't wait to learn from Billups.
"He's probably going to be a Hall of Fame guard and he's an All-Star guard right now. So I'll learn tricks of the trade and veteran moves," Lawson said. "He knows how to run a team and be a leader, so everything. In practice I'll go hard at him He'll be my mentor."
Billups will be 33 next season, and fellow point guards Carter and Jason Hart, who also are in their 30s, will be unrestricted free agents on July 1.
"My hope is that we can get A.C. back and Chauncey and have Ty as a guy who will work hard and prove that he's got to play sometime," Karl said. "He's a great talent. Over the last four or five years, I've become more and more impressed by little guards because you just can't cover em. It's hard to cover 'em. From what I've been evaluating and seeing is you've got one of those guys who's very difficult to cover."
The Nuggets, who lacked a first-round pick for the fourth straight year, landed Lawson in exchange for a future first-round pick they had acquired from Charlotte last year.
Karl said Lawson was off the charts on the Nuggets' point guard formula, which takes into account such factors as turnover ratio and minutes-per-assist.
"He's probably top-5 of any college player," Karl suggested.
Lawson worked out for the Nuggets last summer before opting to return to school, where he averaged 13.1 points and nearly 6 assists in three seasons.
"I improved my shooting, defense, being a leader," Lawson said. "Also, I won a national championship, so I probably made the right decision."
Going back to school for another season showed Karl something about Lawson's character.
"Last year, he probably would have been drafted higher than he went this year. This year's draft had so many point guards in it, that he might have been pushed down a little bit," Karl said.
Lawson said he thinks it was his short stature -- he's 5-foot-11 -- that kept him from being a lottery pick.
"I think I was the perfect example of a point guard people are looking for in the NBA," Lawson said. "It was like I said, the length thing, so I slipped a little bit. But I think I should have been a lottery pick."
Notes: The Nuggets selected another point guard, Sergio Llull, of Spain, with the 34th pick but immediately sent his rights to Houston for cash considerations. ... Karl is recovering from rotator cuff surgery earlier this month and has his right arm in a sling. The injury was a result of a swimming pool injury in Dallas during the playoffs. He expects rehab to last until September or October.
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