Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Healthy and Armed With Increased NBA Knowledge, Lydon is Ready to Shine
Despite playing in just 16 total NBA and G League games due to injury in his rookie season, the first thing you’ll notice about Tyler Lydon is hope. And optimism. And his ability to clearly assess his situation, make the best of it, and apply any lessons learned to how he will operate in the future.
Lydon is sitting in a Pepsi Center locker room talking about his past and his future.
As a matter of his real-world activity since suffering a torn meniscus that ended his season prematurely, he has not been sitting idly by.
And because of that, he can utter two very satisfying words:
“I’m back,” he said.
“I got cleared a week and a half ago now,” Lydon continued. “So, I’ve been playing pick-up, working out, pretty much doing everything back to normal, which is really nice.”
Lydon, the versatile forward who was the Nuggets’ first-round draft pick in 2017, had a complex season. It started with him just trying to figure things out, trying to get familiar with his surroundings. Then came his G League assignment with teammate Monte Morris with Rio Grande Valley. He settled into a comfort zone and played solid basketball with averages of 12.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
Then, he was injured.
Then, he used it to better his situation.
“I had never been injured before,” Lydon said. “My worst injury was a spraining an ankle. So, it was a tough thing to go through but I tried to use it to my advantage. I tried to work on my body, add muscle, add weight and all of that stuff. I try to see the game in a different way. I tried to learn from watching and studying guys and the way they play. So, I thought that was really helpful. So, I just tried to use it to my advantage.”
Because of that, Lydon is arguably in his best space since being drafted. He’s put on 15 pounds of muscle and will chisel that down a bit as the weeks count down to summer league, where he will play after being cleared for full basketball about two weeks ago. He sees the game differently after viewing it from the outside, looking-in, and consulting with veterans about what he was witnessing.
And, he’s simply more confident.
“My biggest thing is just my confidence, which I think, especially through this recovery process, has grown immensely,” Lydon said. “Just being able to battle through adversity and stuff I just really feel like I can get through anything at this point in my career. Even though it’s early on, I feel like I can still accomplish a lot. The biggest part was just confidence for me. Summer league wasn’t the best for me last year, but I was just trying to figure things out. So, this year I’m looking really forward to it.”
His most memorable highlight? In a G League game, Morris swiped a pass along the sideline at midcourt and quickly got downhill toward the rim on a fast break. Lydon trailed the play, sprinting behind him. Morris flipped a behind-the-back pass to Lydon, who threw down a monster two-handed dunk.
“I always take my time when I get to a new team,” he said. “I take my time to figure out guys and how they work and how that team operates and stuff. The beginning of the season I didn’t really play the way I wanted to, but I felt like I was adjusting to everything – the way the game was played in the G League and all of that stuff. Because it’s different than up here; different team, different style. But once I got rolling I felt really comfortable, started playing pretty good I thought. You just find a little groove and just feel really good about how you’re playing. So, my confidence was growing and I just felt good.”
And now he’s marrying that confidence with expanded knowledge of the NBA game.
“I was just talking to some of our veteran guys like Richard Jefferson, who was huge for me this year,” Lydon said. “I sat by him on the bench every game, just trying to pick his brain; see why things happened the way they did. He was showing me plays that would happen before they even happened, type of thing. So, it was really cool to see the way he views the game being a veteran in this league for so long. So that was really helpful for me.”
Armed with health and added knowledge, Lydon is ready to roll.
“Getting back to normal – it’s weird,” he said. “At first it was really weird, but it feels great. Just to be out there playing again, and kind of getting back in the motion and everything. It was a really exciting moment when I got cleared, and I was super-excited to get back on the court.”
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter