Lawson Feeling Right At Home

Ty Lawson's season debut with the Pacers nearly segued into his farewell appearance. He'll be back soon, however, to add drama and intrigue to their reserve unit.

Lawson sprained his left foot during the second quarter of Monday's victory over San Antonio when he landed on David West's foot on a drive to the basket. His ankle almost touched the ground, a sure sign of the dreaded high ankle sprain, but he escaped with a minor injury. He didn't practice on Tuesday, but was dressed and shot around without limping. He expects to be able to play on Saturday at Dallas.

"It feels way better," he said Tuesday. "I felt two pops. I thought it was over. I thought it was done. I looked at X-rays (after the game) and they said it could have been way worse."

Now it appears the Pacers bench can be way better. Lawson brings a classic point guard mentality and skill set, unmatched speed, and scoring punch to the second unit. Jordan Hill, Rodney Stuckey and Solomon Hill have plenty of experience as starters, as do C.J. Miles and Lavoy Allen, who will return soon from their minor injuries, quite possibly on Saturday.

That's six players who wouldn't make anyone flinch if they started. In fact, they combine for 1,164 starts in their NBA careers. Lawson has 319 of them. The remaining player on the active roster, Glenn Robinson III, has started four games this season and was the second-leading scorer in the pre-season.

"We have great depth here," coach Frank Vogel said following Tuesday's practice, "and we feel that bench unit will be a bonus for us down the stretch run."

More than anyone, Lawson can make it click – especially for Miles and Stuckey, who should find it easier to score in transition and in the half-court offense. Stuckey learned that quickly after Lawson entered the game for the first time late in the first quarter against the Spurs. Lawson drove the lane, hung in the air, passed up a layup and kicked out a cross-court pass to Stuckey on the right wing for a 3-pointer.

Lawson also got a dunk for Jordan Hill in the second quarter off a pick-and-roll before having to leave the game. His injury occurred underneath the same basket where West suffered a bad ankle sprain early last season with the Pacers. That limited his debut to 5 minutes, 5 seconds, but it was a long enough trailer to show what could unfold be when he's healthy.

It was reminiscent of how he played in Denver, and not at all like he was allowed to play in Houston this season.

"I like to have the ball in my hands," he said. "With James (Harden) on the court, he likes to have the ball most of the time. It was hard to play off him, the way they wanted to play. Hopefully here it's a better fit."

It likely will be. Vogel wants Lawson to run the offense, although not necessarily dominate it.

"We want to be a better passing team," he said. "He's a pass-first guy. He's got a great instinct, a great knack for drawing help and finding teammates and making the game easier for his teammates."

Lawson made a couple of defensive plays, too. He deflected the ball from West out of bounds on his first defensive possession, then saved the rebound from Myles Turner's block of Danny Green from going out of bounds.

He's not known for defense, but sounds willing to reacquaint himself with it.

"I didn't defend too much my last couple of years in Denver because I was more worried about scoring and getting into the offense, but I think I can do that," he said.

For evidence, he has the championship game of the NCAA tournament in 2009, when he picked off eight steals in North Carolina's win over Michigan State.

"When I put my mind to it, I think I'm a very good defender," he said.

He'll be asked to put his mind to it now. Defense, in fact, is Lawson's predominant memory from his pre-draft workout with the Pacers in 2009. Pacers president Larry Bird nearly drafted him with the 13th pick that year, but chose Lawson's North Carolina teammate Tyler Hansbrough instead.

"One thing he was big on was hands, getting hands on deflections and stuff like that," Lawson said of Bird's feedback in that workout.

Lawson will need time to shed rust. Before Monday, he hadn't played in a game since Feb. 29, his last game with Houston, when he got in for 5 minutes, 49 seconds at Milwaukee. He hasn't played double-figure minutes since Feb. 23, when he played 15:31 at Utah. He said he worked out every day during his period in limbo at the University of Houston, but didn't play pickup games and isn't in game shape.

Now he'll get plenty of action. And in the role he prefers.

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