Ty Lawson has been in the news a fair amount of late.
On the evening of May 20th, moments after the NBA Draft lottery took place, the Denver Nuggets point guard tweeted, “How many number one picks is Cleveland gonna get smh… Yes I’m hating[.]”
Then, in an interview with the Denver Post last week, the 26-year-old said that, weeks after suffering an ankle injury, he was still unable to run.
Most recently, in an interview focused on hip-hop, Lawson told XXL Magazine that the infamous Chris Brown is a better basketball player than Roc Nation rapper J. Cole.
For Lawson, though, the headlines are just background noise. If it was up to him, the only news he’d be making right now is on the court.
“I’m sick right now, sitting at home and watching these games,” says Lawson. “I enjoy the Playoff atmosphere, and like to get there for the fans, too. We haven’t missed the Playoffs in seven, eight years.”
Though the Denver Nuggets failed to make the Playoffs, after finishing with a record of 36-46, the shifty six-footer can’t be blamed. In 35.8 minutes per game, Lawson averaged career highs in points (17.6), assists (8.8) and steals per game (1.6). He did, however, miss 20 games due to injury.
“It was definitely a heavy toll,” says Lawson, “playing that many minutes and having that many people rely on me during the year.”
On a recent afternoon, Lawson spoke with SLAM about injuries and workloads, Coach Karl and Coach Shaw, Kevin Durant and improvement.
SLAM: It’s already been a while, but after the long grind of the season, how does your body feel?
Ty Lawson: I’m still trying to get over this ankle injury. Every day I’ve been going to the gym, lifting weights and getting treatment done. I’ve been doing that for the last month, month and a half. And just watching these Playoff games, man.
SLAM: How much do you miss being in the Playoffs?
TL: By far. I’m sick right now, sitting at home and watching these games. I enjoy the Playoff atmosphere, and like to get there for the fans, too. We haven’t missed the Playoffs in seven, eight years.
SLAM: You carried a heavier load than ever this season, and you missed more games. Do you think the workload took a bigger toll on you than ever before?
TL: Probably. I don’t think I was prepared, physically, for the toll. I probably should have lifted a little bit more. It probably would have prevented some of my injuries, like the rib injury. It was definitely a heavy toll, playing that many minutes and having that many people rely on me during the year.
SLAM: What was the biggest difference for you between Coach Karl and Coach Shaw?
TL: Coach Shaw was laid back and cool, more of a player’s coach. You know, he can sympathize. He played 10 or 11 years, so he knows the grind of the game and what’s going through a player’s mind.
SLAM: It also looked like his offensive sets were a lot different. It seemed like you had to run more isolation plays this year?
TL: I think it was the same, a little bit, with George Karl. But this year we had limited options—JaVale [McGee] went down, Gallo (Danilo Gallinari), JJ [Hickson], Nate [Robinson], Wilson [Chandler] was in and out. Coach Shaw had to switch up his gameplan and probably not play exactly the way he wanted to.
SLAM: You probably deserved to be in the All-Star Game. Do you carry a chip on your shoulder because of that?
TL: Yeah, definitely. In the West, it’s all about wins. You can average 20 and something, but if your team’s not really winning than you’re probably not going to make the All-Star team. Kevin Love, he got voted in, but other players like me—at the time, I was averaging like 19 and 9—who weren’t winning aren’t going to make the All-Star Game.
SLAM: At this point, what else do you think you can change about your game or add to it?
TL: Defensive-wise, I can be put more pressure on the ball. Also, I want to expand my game. I want to get deeper range. Those are things I definitely want to do.
SLAM: How do you work on your jumper—just by getting reps up or with a shooting coach?
TL: I think it’s all reps and confidence. I feel like when I shot with confidence, most of the time it went in. And when I was hesitant, it didn’t. So, I just want to build my confidence and go out there thinking I can make every shot.
SLAM: You also got to the line more than ever this past season. Was that a conscious effort on your part?
TL: A little bit. You see the best players in the League—James Harden, KD, LeBron—get to the League at least eight times a game, and that’s an easy eight points. So, yeah, I try to make it a habit to get to the line a little bit more. Now I want to shoot a higher percentage at the line.
SLAM: A lot of the team is probably coming back. If everyone’s healthy, do you think there will be a vastly different result?
TL: Yeah, it’s going to be night and day. Nobody’s going to want to see us on the court next year.
SLAM: Where do you rank yourself with point guards? Do you look at yourself with CP3 and Russell Westbrook?
TL: I watch most of my YouTube video on Russ, CP and a little bit Tony Parker. See how they get in the lane, how they finish. Russ just jumps over everybody, but CP uses different techniques. He, like, looks you off and hits you with a floater. Tony Parker just goes fast and finishes. I’m looking at different types of ways to get my finishes better.
SLAM: You’ve played with some serious players—who have you picked up the most from?
TL: Probably Chauncey [Billups]. He was always one step ahead of everybody.
SLAM: Do you set goals before the season, like I want to average 20/10, or do you feel it out as the year progresses?
TL: Last year I did. I wanted to increase in every category, which I think I did, aside from field goal percentage. My plan every year is to increase every category and see if I can do that.
SLAM: After the Draft lottery you jokingly tweeted, “How many number one picks is Cleveland gonna get smh…yes I’m hating.” What were you thinking that night?
TL: This is what the third No. 1 pick for Cleveland in four years. It’s just crazy to me. We’ve got to somehow get Dan Gilbert’s son to hold up a Nuggets’ lottery sign. Hopefully, that’d help us get a No. 1 pick, because they had a 1.7 percent chance and still got it.
SLAM: Have you watched any of the rookies-to-be play in college?
TL: I watched a little bit of Jabari [Parker], a little bit of Andrew [Wiggins]. Mostly just YouTube clips. I go on NBAdraft.net and they always have clips of the top 15 prospects about to come in. I just watch them, get a feel for their games. I watched Marcus Smart a lot, too.
SLAM: What do you think of him?
TL: He’s big. I think, probably in five years, a post-up point guard. I don’t know how fast or explosive he is getting to the rim, but he’s going to be a problem for smaller guards.
SLAM: It seems like making the transition from college to the NBA is hardest on point guards. What was the biggest difference for you?
TL: Just slowing down. When you get to the League, everybody is moving fast so you feel like you have to move faster. But if you make plays at your speed, you’ll be good. So it’s mostly just slowing down, playing your own speed and pace. Controlling the game. People will feed off of you, so you don’t have to go fast to dictate the pace. I say, Slow down, play your game and everything will take care of itself.
SLAM: Right. That seems like something John Wall figured out this past year. Did you grow up as a fan of the Wizards?
TL: A little bit. I grew up a Gilbert Arenas fan. When I was coming up, he was just killing it. Dropping 50, 60, shooting the ball for game-winners and turning his back before it even went in. You definitely had to be a fan of the Wizards.
SLAM: Right now, the DMV seems to be producing a ton of talent. Do you feel that way too?
TL: It’s just a good area for basketball. We have a lot of YMCAs, basketball courts with things going on. I think it’s between us and Cali. We’re probably No. 1 right now with elite players in the League.
SLAM: Nate Robinson always makes the argument for Seattle.
TL: Seattle is cool, but they ain’t messing with DC. We should have a DC versus Seattle game and see who wins.
SLAM: Nate’s mentioned that idea to me before.
TL: We can do it. We can figure it out. I knew KD is down.
SLAM: What’s it like to see KD, a dude you grew up with, win the MVP award?
TL: It’s crazy. We played on the same AAU team, and you could tell his work ethic was crazy and he was going to do something special in the League. He always said he wanted to be MVP, and he accomplished it. He worked his tail off.
SLAM: Back when you two played AAU together, were you imagining days like these, with you two running the League?
TL: Not really. Back in the day, when I first played with Kevin, I didn’t know who he was. He really didn’t play too much. He was like 6-1, and didn’t play too much on the team. The next year, he sprouted up to like 6-9 and he still had his guard skills and was out there killing. For me, I didn’t know until my senior of high school that I could play in the NBA. Since then, we’ve been rolling on.
SLAM: So what are your goals for the future?
TL: Next year, definitely, I want to be an All-Star and make it to the second round of the Playoffs. Once we make it there, we’ll make a lot of noise and who knows where we’ll end up. Those are two goals for next year.