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News » Lawson earns (double) time

Lawson earns (double) time

Lawson earns (double) time Here's a quiz only longtime Nuggets fans are qualified to answer:

Quick, who's the fastest guard in franchise history?

Michael Adams? Robert Pack? Earl Boykins? Allen Iverson?

How about Fast Eddie Hughes or little Kenny Higgs or even, taking a trip in the wayback machine to the days of the Denver Rockets, the venerable Larry Brown?

Judging by the team's opener Wednesday night, the answer is none of the above. In his first pro game, rookie point guard Ty Lawson was a blue-and-white streak.

Lawson did what former Nuggets coach Doug Moe always wanted a jet to do: He changed the nature of the game when he checked in for the first time with 1:12 left in the first quarter.

Utah's Ronnie Price found out right away. Trying to drive around Lawson to the hoop, he arrived in the lane only to find Lawson still in front of him, stuffing his shot and causing a turnover.

Lawson's first two NBA points came when he drove the lane at the other end and forced Jazz forward Paul Millsap to foul him. Lawson made both free throws.

Caught in apparent no-man's land defensively between Utah star Deron Williams on the perimeter and center Mehmet Okur in the low post, Lawson made like wide receiver Steve Smith in the ESPN ad, bouncing down to Okur to prevent Williams from feeding him, then materializing in front of Williams when Okur kicked it back out. The result was another Utah turnover.

Although Nuggets coach George Karl started Anthony Carter beside Chauncey Billups in place of suspended J.R. Smith, it was the combination of Lawson and Billups that was the Nuggets' most effective backcourt.

"As a rookie point guard, it's a lot of things that you have to learn," Billups said. "But he has something that you really can't coach, and that's speed. That speed is really going to help our ball club, because that's something that none of us have. I mean, we have a little bit, but he's a freak in that way."

The admiration is mutual. Lawson has been learning the tricks of the pro trade from Billups since training camp began.

"We interact every day during practice," Lawson said. "Even when we're playing against each other, he's still talking - 'You should do this, rookie; you should do that.' So I'm learning a lot from him every day, just gaining stuff and adding it to my game."

Like most veteran coaches, Karl is not known for giving rookies much playing time. But he has already signaled that Lawson will be an exception, especially in the first seven games, while Smith is suspended. But if Lawson continues to go to the cup and score over much bigger defenders, as he did to Okur in the fourth quarter, the exception is likely to continue even after Smith returns.

"I think there's a fundamental intelligence, Basketball IQ, that's come from going back to school and winning a national championship, being a leader of that team in a lot of ways, not only offense but defense," Karl said. It is purely a coincidence, of course, that Lawson did that for North Carolina, Karl's alma mater.

"He plays with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, but also he plays with a courage and confidence that very few rookies I've ever coached have," Karl added.

Lawson's speed will force the Nuggets to make certain adjustments. On one possession, he got the ball up the floor so quickly in transition that he found himself with no one to pass to and had to pull it back out.

"With this little guy in the game, we've got to have guys running ahead of him," Karl told his team during a timeout with ESPN eavesdropping.

If the question was who among Carter, Lawson, Arron Afflalo and Joey Graham would offer the most in place of Smith, it was no contest in the opening win over the Jazz. Lawson's 17 points, six assists and one turnover were easily the team's top contribution off the bench.

"He has a real good understanding of the game, which is what I've been impressed with," Billups said. "A lot of rookies, when they made good plays, you didn't even have to see the play, you know what happened because they're just so emotional and they're running back and they're so happy. He's got great composure. He stays even-keeled the whole time, which I love."

After an offseason in which rivals San Antonio and Dallas made high-profile upgrades, it looked as if the Nuggets failed to keep up. Don't tell that to Ty Lawson. He has no trouble keeping up.

Dave Krieger: 303-954-5297 or

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 30, 2009


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