Ty Lawson sounds comfortable over the phone because, even after a long train ride in New York, he’s in a good place. The Nuggets’ fourth-year point guard has seen his points, assists and steals all increase in his three years under George Karl, a coach who, like Lawson and college coach Roy Williams, also bleeds Carolina blue and believes in the fast break.
One of the last pieces of his contentment is that contract extension talks are still ongoing and he’d like to stay in Denver for a considerable amount of time to stay with the young Nuggets’ core. That core was added to this summer by a mid-Olympic trade for Andre Iguodala, another added piece to a remade Nuggets roster since last season’s trade deadline. So, Lawson knows it all could change quickly, but as the averages of the NBA’s fastest point guard climb, he believes it’s all change for the better. Lawson started all 61 games he played in, with 16.5 points, 6.6 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. While his shooting percentages have dipped to 49 percent from the field and 36 from three, his PER has increased to 19.4, which isn’t far from the All-Star benchmark of 20.
Lawson talked with Dime this week about his team, Western Conference challenges and where he sees himself among the league’s best point guards.
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Dime: So how are you closing out the summer?
Ty Lawson: By just meetings and being back in my hometown, chilling with my family before I have to go back.
Dime: How different is it for you now than it was a year ago, with the lockout uncertainty and then the unhappiness from playing in Lithuania?
TL: It was a little different over there, and just waiting to be back I didn’t know if it was starting on time or if training camp was starting. I’m definitely happier knowing we have a lot of good pieces.
Dime: Last year Kenneth Faried broke out early; are you feeling the same excitement about Quincy Miller and Evan Fournier?
TL: Yeah, yeah, they’ve been in the gym. Fournier is 19 but he knows the game like he’s older. He knows how to drive. Quincy is just a flat-out scorer. He’s going to be good when he gets a little weight on him.
Dime: Of the Lakers’ moves, Dwight Howard seemed like it was going to happen. But with Steve Nash going to Phoenix’s division rival, was that a surprise to you like it was to many?
TL: Definitely out of the blue. It was not even a division rival but just a rival, period. That’s definitely a surprising move. Also I like Steve Nash but I don’t know how it really helped out their point guard situation. They wanted to get a younger guy. I’m not saying he’s old but he’s not young. I just see the move and wonder why they did it. He’s a great player and an MVP, definitely, but I don’t know if it helped concerns on the defensive end.
Dime: Denver got better this summer it would seem, but the Lakers did, too, and Oklahoma is still strong.
TL: I definitely think they’re beatable. I think we match up good with Oklahoma with our length and youth. I really don’t think Los Angeles wanted a matchup with us last year in the first round, or Oklahoma. We’re all around 25 and 24, 23 and 26 with our core.
Dime: Especially with the Lakers, who will be a huge team down low, can you beat them with the running style in a best-of-7 series?
TL: I feel like our running style can get us to the championship. We have chances to shock the world and show everyone who we really are. I hope we can change it around.
Dime: What about your moves, with Andre Iguodala. Will his biggest addition be what he does for you on offense or his defense?
TL: It’s both. He’s a perfect part of our team. He runs the lanes well and he’s a big creator. We need another person who can create shots for other people. We need that third person, with me and him, who can get shots to guys when they’re open, and he can defend the Kobes and the Kevin Durants. He’s a big player for us.
Dime: With that move, too, were you surprised?
TL: I was pretty taken aback because I was closest on the team was with Al Harrington. I was a little taken aback. I also know Andre, he’s a good guy and a good player to be around. I’m glad we got him but it was out of nowhere. Not all trades are like that. Nene going for JaVale in Washington was like that.
Dime: Who has stood out from your workouts this summer?
TL: JaVale. When we have a run in the gym, everyone is back except for Danilo (Gallinari) and Timofey (Mozgov), but he’s pretty much unguardable. He has a lot more moves down there. He’s going to erase that enigma, everything thinks he’s one of the dumbest people in the league but he’s not at all. I don’t think it’s true at all. With him playing, he’s going to prove a lot of people wrong.
Dime: What’s he doing to be “unguardable”?
TL: Last year he got in the post and we weren’t sure what he could do it with but he’s been doing half spins, up and unders, his jump hook is so hard for anyone to block it. He’s getting that shot anytime he wants.
Dime: I’d read your contract extension talks as being “close” this summer, but what is the status there?
TL: We’re on the same page. We don’t have bad blood or anything like that. It’s a big deal on both ends and we’re taking our time and dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. We stopped talking for now but I want to let everyone know I’m going to be here for four or five years or however long they want to extend me.
Dime: You’ve obviously sold yourself in those talks as being an elite guard. Where do you rank yourself in the NBA’s best point guards? I’d easily put you in the top 10 but where from there?
TL: I think I can go top five. I think after this year I’ll be in the discussion at least. I just have more confidence, it’s through the roof. I don’t think anyone noticed I had a left hand the last few years and that’s what I’ve been working on has been on my left hand, floaters and everything. I’m shooting the ball a lot quicker, getting my shot off fast.
Dime: Last thing, but what are you listening to lately?
TL: I’ve been listening to Waka Flocka‘s “Rooster In My Rari,” Lil Reese, the new Kanye. I’ve also been listening to Kendrick Lamar. I’ve been rocking that the last week and a half. Also some new guys, Jinsu and D-Simp.
Is Lawson a top-five point guard right now?
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