Lawson, Miller to form 1-2 punch in preseason opener
Nuggets face Suns at Pepsi Center in first of two exhibition meetings
While the Nuggets work toward re-signing free-agent shooting guard Arron Afflalo, Denver coach George Karl has found an intriguing replacement.
Karl likely will start veteran point guard Andre Miller and third-year point guard Ty Lawson in the backcourt together when the Nuggets play their first preseason game Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns at Pepsi Center.
“They’ve been the two best players in training camp,” Karl said. “Why shouldn’t I put them together?”
Lawson averaged 14.6 points and 6.7 assists in 31 games as a starter last season, and Denver acquired Miller from the Portland Trail Blazers in a draft-night trade on June 23. When they are on the floor together, Miller likely will run the half-court offense, while Lawson will be the catalyst in transition.
“It’s going to be fun playing with him,” Lawson said. “I’m going to let him run the (point). He’s good at bringing the ball up and seeing the whole court. I’m just going to run and get ahead of the ball.”
In addition to Lawson and Miller, the projected starting lineup features small forward Danilo Gallinari, power forward Nene and center Timofey Mozgov. The starters and Denver’s veteran players will probably play two quarters in the first of two preseason games against the Suns. The teams will play again in Phoenix on Thursday.
The Nuggets open the regular season Dec. 26 in Dallas.
“I think we’re in a good place,” Karl said. “At least two or three more steps have to be made in the next five or six days. That’s speeding up the process. Usually a step is taken every four or five days.”
Training camp indeed has been a zero-to-60 process for the Nuggets, who have added nine new players since the end of the 2010-11 season. Tuesday’s game will allow the coaching staff to further evaluate rookies Kenneth Faried, Jordan Hamilton, Cory Higgins and Julyan Stone, along with newcomers Corey Brewer and Rudy Fernandez.
Even without Afflalo in the fold, the Nuggets are capable of having a 10-man rotation on any given night.v “I don’t think there’s any question that it’ll be interesting to see how far I go,” Karl said. “At home, I feel like you’re more comfortable with 9 or 10. On the road, it’s closer to 8 or 9. If you go more than 10, you’re kind of messing with people’s minutes.”
Brewer, a lanky forward who can run the floor and play defense, is among those fighting for minutes.
“Just go out there and play hard, whatever I can do to make things happen,” Brewer said. “It starts (Tuesday). We’ve got to get some wins. Even though it’s preseason, we’ve got to play together and try to get a win.”