But UCLA point guard Jrue Holiday said that his matchup with the UNC junior was competitive, Duke swingman Gerald Henderson Jr. -- who has traveled Tobacco Road enough to know -- echoed the sentiment, and Nets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe called the overall session one of the best workouts he’s seen this year.
“Holiday and Lawson were a good matchup,” Vandeweghe said. “I think Lawson is a guy you can see has played a lot of basketball, really knows how to play basketball. Jrue did very well also. Henderson was very good -- he’s a tough competitior, comes from a great program and is a guy who really knows how to play basketball and is going help an NBA team. I don’t think there’s any question.”
Henderson, whose father played 13 seasons in the NBA, seemed freshest at the workout’s conclusion, fluidly nailing long jumpers and three-pointers on-the-move when team president Rod Thorn asked his group to take an extra trip around-the-world. His strong conditioning was an effect caused by a tip from dad that being in shape to handle anything thrown at him would put the younger Henderson in the best pre-draft position possible.
The swingman mentioned that he also benefited from working with Lawson and N.C. State forward Courtney Fells, each of whom had familiar games after multiple college matchups in basketball-mad North Carolina. Instead of feeling each other out, the players were able to focus on showcasing their skills -- and hang out afterward.
“(My teammate) Wayne Ellington is Gerald’s best friend,” Lawson admitted with a laugh. “The rivalry’s so hyped up, but I know (Duke guard) Nolan Smith well. Their players come to Chapel Hill sometimes, and we’ll go to Duke.”
With one myth debunked, Lawson’s next mission is to prove he can thrive on the NBA level despite barely topping six feet in shoes. He felt he shot and defended well during the workout, but was frustrated by his inability to execute offensive fundamentals, from holding on to his dribble to how he was coming off screens.
Yet with a veteran’s mentality, Lawson is ready to put the workout behind him -- he knows that after a bad day, the best idea is to focus on making the next one a good one. Similarly, Vandeweghe knows that one good or bad workout shouldn’t tip the scale when considering a player’s draft prospects, especially one with an NCAA Championship under his belt.
“First of all, he’s very strong,” Vandeweghe said. “And I think If you look at the history, he makes other players better. He knows how to play, and I think if you go back through the history of our league, guys who are very strong that way, no matter what size they are, they find a way to compete at their position. So you’ve got a very competitive guy who really knows how to play and makes other players better. I think he definitely helps a team.”
The Nets are still in search of consistent production at both forward spots, but with a point guard-heavy draft, they’re keeping their options open. Vandeweghe pointed out that center and point guard are the hardest positions to fill, and thusly having multiple talented players at the point isn’t a “problem.”
He added that it would be dangerous for a team to pass up on the best player available solely to fill a need, and having point guards Devin Harris and Keyon Dooling wouldn’t prevent the Nets from taking a third PG if one they were enamored with were available at No. 11.
“One thing you look at is what stage your team is at,” Vandeweghe said. “We’re trying to build up our team, so you want the best players you can get, you mix-and-match, you get the best talent you can and it’s the coach’s job to piece it together. I think that’s the way we’ve always looked at it.”
One more Lawson note:
As a fellow Tar Heel (Whutup ’05? Cheers to Championship years), I noticed Ty was majoring in Exercise and Sport Science, which many non-athletes at UNC take eyeing sports-related careers, like physical therapy. He said he had started the major, taking classes in sports marketing, sports law and sports psychology.
“Yeah, that’s what I really wanted to do,” he said. “If I didn’t make it in basketball, I’d be able to be involved with basketball. The business side, laws, how the body works.”
So does any of that knowledge translate to self-service stops at the trainer’s table?
“Not really,” he said, laughing. “I let the trainers stick to it. I learned how to take care of your body: drink a lot of water, stretch, things like that.”
As for the basketball side of the Carolina experience, Lawson said he’s had plenty of time for the NCAA Championship to sink in -- and owned up to needling Henderson about the Tar Heels’ victory. Though he won’t be returning for the title defense, he sees big things for his former teammates:
“We’ve got another top-5, top-10 team. Ed Davis is back, Larry Drew’s going to surprise a lot of people. Then you’ve got John Henson and all them coming in, and Deon (Thompson)’s going to lead them, senior leader. They’re going to be a good team. I think they’ll make it back to the Elite 8, Final Four and hopefully a championship.”
With the league opening up to smaller guards in recent years, Vandeweghe outlined his position policy on height:
“I think that, to me, it’s more about what a guy’s got inside. It’s a game of speed and quickness. At the end of the day, that’s what basketball is. Would you like to have taller players on your team? Yeah, it’s basketball. But having said that, this guy I think is one of the more ready guys to play, and if he comes in, I think he helps a team. There’s no doubt about it.”
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