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News » Rookie Lawson adjusts to NBA faster than expected

Rookie Lawson adjusts to NBA faster than expected

Rookie Lawson adjusts to NBA faster than expectedDENVER (AP) - Everybody knew about Ty Lawson's speed at North Carolina. Just as impressive is how quickly the Denver Nuggets' new backup point guard is adjusting to the NBA.

Fellow Tar Heels alum and Nuggets coach George Karl has notoriously had little use for rookies, but he's making an exception for this exceptional player, saying even he didn't expect this smooth of a transition.

"I can't deny that. He's pretty mature for a young kid," Karl said.

Lawson is averaging 10.3 points, 2 boards and 3.2 assists in 21.8 minutes through his first 10 NBA games.

Yet, it's more his hustle and pluck, matters that don't necessarily show up on the stat sheet, that are wowing teammates, coaches, opponents and fans alike.

Take his pickpocketing of Kobe Bryant in the first half Friday night and his amazing dunk over 7-footer D.J. Mbenga in the second half that were the highlights of Denver's 105-79 demolition of the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

These were the kinds of things that had the Nuggets practically salivating even a year ago, before Lawson decided to return to Chapel Hill, where he helped lead the Tar Heels to the NCAA championship as a junior.

"Well, when Roy Williams whispers to you that he's the best point guard he's ever coached - I mean, he's had a few good point guards," Karl said.

Lawson's guru in Denver, Chauncey Billups, said the energetic rookie has made a seamless transition to the pros because he and the system are a perfect fit.

"He's in a great situation because he's in a fastbreak offense, just run up and down and play. He's not in a structured offense," Billups said. "So, it's easy for him and he's done a great job of coming in and using what he does best and that's his speed. And that's something that we need."

While best known for his baseline-to-baseline velocity, Lawson became an all-around threat last season by shooting 53 percent from the field and 47 percent from 3-point range.

His speed and hustle remain his forte.

Karl said he's never seen a player so deft at coming up with loose balls as Lawson. He always seems to be fast-fowarding while the other nine players on the court are moving at regular speed. Like Friday night, when Bryant thought he had picked up the loose ball only to watch helplessly as Lawson swooped around from behind and tipped it upcourt for the breakaway basket.

"I'm lower to the ground than most people," explained Lawson, who's 5-foot-11. "And the thing I do is tip it and keep it going and go get it."

Thanks to Lawson, Karl insists this version of the Nuggets can be better than the one that took the Lakers to six games in the Western Conference finals last summer.

"Ty gives us a guy that we've never had before," Karl said. "We have a guy that can GO."

Lawson said he figured he's adjust quickly to the NBA once he saw the offense Karl was running.

"Basically, we run the same system as Carolina, up and down, so that's probably helping me out a lot more than people think. And just hard work," Lawson said.

Along with having a superstar in Billups serving as his mentor.

"He's been priceless," Lawson said. "He tells me everything from what to do on the road to what to do on the basketball court. If I have a question, I go straight to him. He can't be replaced."

Well, eventually, the plan is for Lawson to do exactly that.

Although he certainly seems to have a lot left in him, Billups is in his 13th season, and he said he's grateful now that he's in his golden basketball years to have a protege as easy to work with as Lawson.

"I just love that he's real humble, he's quiet, he listens when you're trying to help him out. He has a really good understanding of the game for a young player," Billups said.

And Lawson's presence should benefit Billups, too, by keeping him fresher down the stretch.

Last year, Billups tired out toward the end of the Nuggets' long playoff run because he had to log so many minutes just getting them there that his tank was empty when he needed to push them over the top.

"There's times out there where George wants me to come back in and Ty's playing good, and I'm like, 'Let him play,"' Billups said. "'Let him play."'

That way, he gets his rest along with a front-row view of this sensational speed demon who's playing like he's been in the league forever.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 16, 2009


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