Coming into the season Nuggets fans had enormous hopes for Ty Lawson. He averaged career highs across the board in his first (kind of) full year as a starter. Then in the playoffs against the Lakers he took his game to the next level, averaging 19 points and six assists per game. After receiving a $48 million extension just prior to the 2012-13 season, it seemed the groundwork had been laid for Lawson to finally emerge as the team’s clear-cut best player. But 11 games into the season, it’s become apparent that Lawson still has other things on his mind. For the last several years George Karl has often clamored about how he’s needed Ty Lawson to become more of a leader. Heading into training camp, this was a narrative both the media and Lawson were embracing. Lawson was confident in his abilities (as well as his team’s) and gave no indication that he’d be anything other than a borderline All Star. Then, the season started.
Through 11 games Lawson is averaging a career-low .373 shooting percentage from the field, .261 percent from behind the 3-point line and .535 percent from the free-throw stripe. His 3.3 turnovers per game are a career high by almost an entire turnover. His rebounds and points are down from last year as well. In fact, the only measurable improvements Lawson has made to his game have come in the assists and steals categories, where he’s improved only slightly.
Looking at the stats sheet is telling. It’s clear Lawson is not himself at this point in time. But watching him play is when you start to actually understand why his stats are so deflated.
Lawson does not have the confidence of a leader right now. He doesn’t even appear to have the confidence of a solid role player. He is timid and apprehensive. He’s not looking to score nor make an overall impact on the game. His assists continue to pour in at a respectable rate only because he’s averaging a whopping 37 minutes per game; but they’re mostly routine passes. Overall, Lawson is sluggish, passive and overcome with trepidation. He’s over-analyzing the act of playing basketball and as a result, has temporarily lost his confidence. Or, was it the other way around?
Ty Lawson has never seemed like a natural-born leader to me. Does this mean he’s incapable of displaying leadership or possessing similar types of skills? Of course not. I fully trust that he’s more than capable and willing to display leadership. But to ask Lawson to be the leader of this team, at 25, while he’s still trying to figure out who he is as a player, just doesn’t seem like a realistic proposition. How can he help others and demand more from his teammates when he’s still developing himself?
Lawson seems like he’s folded under the pressure bestowed upon him not only by his head coach, but the media, fans and most importantly, himself. He’s playing a confused brand of basketball; and not with the type of unrelenting, full-force, Speedy Gonzales-like blurriness we’ve come to know and love. The great thing, of course, is that it’s only a matter of time before Lawson has an epiphany (or a series of them), de-attaches himself from the expectations and just plays ball. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that by the end of this month Lawson will already have shown glimpses of his former self. By the the time All-Star break rolls around, Lawson should very well be on his way to having yet another career year.