Lawson seeks invitation to rookie-sophomore showcase
With his teammate Carmelo Anthony heading to the 2011 NBA All-Star Game as a Western Conference starter, Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson now hopes to join him as part of the undercard.
After being left off the rookie roster for the 2010 T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam, Lawson has made a strong case to be included among the nine second-year players who will face the top rookies Feb. 18 at the Staples Center.
Lawson is averaging 11 points and four assists in 24.1 minutes per game while serving as the backup to five-time All-Star point guard Chauncey Billups. He also is shooting .504 from the field, which is second in the NBA among second-year players.
“I think he’s somebody that (Nuggets coach) George Karl obviously trusts,” Sacramento Kings coach Paul Westphal said. “I’m sure if it wasn’t for Chauncey Billups, he’d be playing 35 to 40 minutes a game and putting up great numbers. He’s a real top-flight young point guard.”
NBA assistant coaches will have some difficult decisions to make as they select the nine-man rookie and sophomore rosters.
Forward DeMar DeRozan (Toronto) and guards Stephen Curry (Golden State), Tyreke Evans (Sacramento) and Wesley Matthews (Portland) appear to be locks for the sophomore team. Beyond that, Lawson is among nine players vying for five remaining spots.
Milwaukee point guard Brandon Jennings has great numbers but has missed 19 games (and counting) with a foot injury. Three other candidates – Omri Casspi (Sacramento), Darren Collison (Indiana) and Jrue Holiday (Philadelphia) – play on sub-.500 teams and could be at a disadvantage if coaches reward overall team success.
Lawson has been instrumental in helping the Nuggets (28-18) succeed despite a number of injuries to key players and constant speculation about Anthony’s future.
When Billups missed five games with a wrist injury earlier this season, Lawson stepped in and averaged 17 points and six assists. More importantly, the Nuggets went 4-1 in those games.
“He’s a very heady point guard,” Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis said before Lawson dropped 23 points and nine assists on the Timberwolves on Dec. 18 . “He understands how to get the basketball to the right people at the right time, and he does a good job of reading situations where he can create his own shot. He understands how to play.”
Lawson leads his second-year peer group in assist-to-turnover ratio and is one of only four NBA sophomores averaging at least 10 points and four assists this season. Among those four players, he is the only one averaging fewer than 2.0 turnovers per game.
The turnover numbers are impressive considering Lawson is usually pushing the ball as fast as anyone in the league.
“He’s quick,” Miami Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said. “When I watch him on film, it’s like watching a guy in fast-forward. He’s unique because he’s also shown the ability to hit the three-point shot consistently.”
After struggling from beyond the arc early in the season, Lawson is shooting .420 from three-point range over his past 35 games, which is in line with his .410 percentage as a rookie.
“Ty’s played great, man,” Billups said. “It’s almost impossible to keep him out of the lane, where he can make plays, and he’s been able to knock down shots when he’s open. That makes him real tough to guard.”
It’s now up to opposing coaching staffs to determine whether Lawson will be able to flash his skills during All-Star Weekend.