Ty Lawson Not Walking the Walk

There’s something to be said for humility. It is the preferred response when you’ve had off-court issues and your former boss implies you were drunk in practice.

There’s something to be said for backing up what you say. If you’re bold, then you better make sure your game cashes your checks.

In late summer, after the trade from Denver to Houston went down, Ty Lawson, to the amazement of many, couldn’t keep quiet. Steph Curry and Western Conference point guards were his target of choice. Perhaps Lawson felt being on a contender now gave him cache and credibility.

Lawson had a nice NBA career in Denver, 14 points, nearly 7 assists. But, he always felt buried in the  Colorado Rockies. Lawson likes attention and no one noticed his superlatives.

Ty Lawson was at the University of North Carolina at the same time Steph Curry was at Davidson. In 2009, Lawson and the TarHeels won the NCAA tournament. Curry’s Davidson team didn’t make the tournament and lost in the NIT in the second round. Still, Curry was drafted as a lottery pick and Lawson was drafted 18th.

Lawson’s NBA success started earlier because Curry had bad ankles and injury years. Now Curry has surpassed Lawson as a dominant scorer and playmaker. Emboldened by his Houston trade, Lawson felt the need to say a few things to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski in September.

Steph Curry needed someone to go back at him. I thought Steph was just chillin on defense-and then going crazy on offense. He looked like he was putting shots up and not working so much on the defensive end. He would just come down and hit three or four 3s. He can shoot when he’s got his legs under him.”

Note to Lawson: Curry can shoot whenever he walks into the building. When the two guards met in the second game of the year this season, Curry let his game do the talking. He shot 60%, scored 25 points, had 7 rebounds, 6 assists, was a +12 for the game and the Warriors won by 20. Lawson was hardly a fly on the wall. He missed 6 out of 8 shots, had 5 assists and registered a -13 for the game.

In the same September interview with Yahoo, Lawson gave his view on Western Conference point guards.

I don’t think you’ve ever seen so many good point guards in one conference at one time in the league ever. But you’ve got to win. If you want to be an elite PG in this league you’ve got to be in the conference finals, the NBA Finals. If you’re not, you’ll always be second or third-tier.”

Does he mean himself? He has never been in a conference final or the NBA Finals. So is Ty Lawson second tier?

It hasn’t been a flawless transition. Denver to Houston was supposed to magically open up doors for Lawson to enter the best point guard conversation. Waiting on deck for the perfect moment, there has been very little evidence to lump Lawson in with Curry and Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook.  If Lawson thought he would be better in Houston, he’s the only one.

The Rockets are intrinsically flawed by their 3-point or layup system. Dwight Howard is deeply ensconced in the injury years. And James Harden needs to run the show. Lawson has had a hard time fitting his game in, being himself.  Furthermore, the game is more complicated when you give up 108 points, of which Lawson is partly responsible. He is a worse defender than last year’s starter, Patrick Beverly.

There hasn’t been much Harden-Lawson chemistry either. Harden has been the primary ball handler for his entire Rockets career; he plays best with the ball in his hands and orchestrating things. A good point guard like Lawson needs the ball too. Harden’s heroics of last year have never materialized. Lawson’s numbers of last year have been buried.

 Ty Lawson  Points Per Game  Assists Assist Percentage  PER
 Houston Rockets (2015-16)  9.3  5.8  22.7  8.4
 Denver Nuggets (2009-15)  14.2  6.6  33.3  18.3

Lawson couldn’t wait to escape Denver. The Nuggets have beaten Lawson twice with his replacement. Last night, in his return trip to Denver, Lawson missed every single shot he took, he was an awful 0-7.  He went scoreless and had 7 assists. The rookie, Emmanuel Mudiay, was equally miserable,  1-10, with 2 points but he had 11 assists. The Nuggets won by 9 and so far have a better record than the Rockets.

But two weeks into the NBA season doesn’t mean that much. No one has been eliminated yet. Yesterday, Lawson was somewhat humble before the Denver game, saying “God has a plan.”

Lawson’s plan is to somehow figure this Houston thing out. Otherwise, his talk will have been cheap, worthless and a bunch of hot air.

photo via llananba