Denver Nuggets return to practice with sense of optimism

After a well-deserved weekend off, the Nuggets returned to practice Monday with a renewed sense of optimism about starting point guard Ty Lawson.

While Lawson’s return from a plantar fascia tear in his right heel remains unknown, Denver coach George Karl said he is encouraged about his recovery.

“I have a feeling that he had somewhat of a (partial) tear in his plantar fasciitis and that’s untreatable,” Karl said. “But popping it creates a situation where now once the soreness goes away, he probably should be able to be pain-free. It could come in a couple weeks.

“His job and our job is to figure out how to get him feeling 100 percent and having some confidence playing the game of basketball. I think it’s a situation where it’s going to work out. I’m optimistic about how it’s going to work out.”

Lawson, who leads Denver in scoring and assists, has missed four of the past five games. Andre Miller has been starting in his place, and rookie Evan Fournier had a breakout game off the bench Friday night against the Brooklyn Nets.

Fournier scored a career-high 19 points while sparking a key second-quarter run in Denver’s 109-87 victory.

“I can’t say I know exactly what Evan’s contribution is going to be,” Karl said. “There’s no way I expected what I got. I don’t know if it’s going to be two games or six games or seven games he’s going to play before Ty gets back in the rotation.

“The one thing I love about him is he’s a confident kid. I think he was genuinely annoyed that people were surprised that he played well.”

The schedule is working in Lawson’s favor as he recovers. The Nuggets are in the midst of a four-day break, and they play only three games over the next eight days.

The Nuggets (50-24) are third in the Western Conference standings with eight games to play. They made a big move in March by matching a team record with 13 wins.

The NBA recognized Denver’s success by naming Karl as Western Conference Coach of the Month.

“It’s a compliment to the whole team, the whole organization,” Karl said. “When you get on one of those special waves, it’s like a surfer. It’s pretty cool. Hopefully I can help them sustain it because it’s all about them. It’s not about me.”