Ty Lawson is the shortest player on the Kings.
Generously listed at 6 feet on the roster, Lawson has long been a player who could score and pile up assists. When it came to triple-doubles, though, the rebounds have been hard to collect.
Entering Tuesday’s home finale against the Phoenix Suns, Lawson had never grabbed more than nine rebounds in a game. So when Lawson already had seven rebounds at halftime of the Kings’ 129-104 victory, it was clear Lawson had a chance at a triple-double.
“I felt like if I just stand under (the rim) it’s going to come my way eventually,” Lawson said. “The last three, I was just in the right position at the right time.”
Lawson notched his first career triple-double with 22 points, 12 assists and a career-high 11 rebounds in the win as he left the court with 5:18 to play to praise from his teammates and cheers from the crowd.
“I’m not a rebounder at all,” Lawson said. “In the first half, they were just bouncing my way so before I knew it I had seven rebounds in the second quarter.”
The triple-double came in a season that was seen as a make-or-break campaign for his career. He was on the cusp of being an All-Star in Denver before DUI arrests in 2015 derailed him and he spent the 2015-16 season in Houston and Indiana.
It was cool being here the whole year. I wasn’t guaranteed, but I really didn’t have to look over my shoulder trying to figure out what I’m going to do, if I’m being traded, stuff like that. It felt good, it felt like home, I like it here.
Kings guard Ty Lawson, who got his first career triple-double in Tuesday’s win
Lawson missed a team flight in October and last month had to deal with reports about a bench warrant being issued for him in Denver for violating his probation.
“He’s battled a lot of things and I’m really happy for him,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “Not just for the individual accolade but I think that when you go what he’s gone through, to feel the love and appreciation of an amazing group of fans, there’s nothing better.”
Lawson signed a non-guaranteed contract with the Kings before training camp and won the final roster spot. Lawson was able to settle in Sacramento and spent much of the season as the leader of the second unit that had to save the Kings many nights.
“It was cool being here the whole year,” Lawson said. “I wasn’t guaranteed, but I really didn’t have to look over my shoulder trying to figure out what I’m going to do, if I’m being traded, stuff like that. It felt good, it felt like home, I like it here.”
Lawson quickly won over the locker room with his play and with his easy-going personality off the court.
“To see him be able to do what he did and finish the season the way he is, he’s a starting point guard in this league, no question,” Kings guard Garrett Temple said. “Hopefully it’s for this team or if he goes somewhere else, he’s a guy who needs to be starting. I’m really happy for him, the way he’s finishing the season, a great guy.”
Lawson said shooting guard Arron Afflalo, who didn’t play Tuesday, was the teammate who told him early that a triple-double was possible. And as the game continued, Afflalo let him know he was getting close to the mark.
Leaving the game to the ovation and congratulations from teammates was the ideal way for Lawson to exit.
“It’s fun. It shows how much the fans love it here, love me here,” Lawson said. “They’re the best fans in the NBA and that’s what I knew before I came here because they always talked trash and would be loud and stuff like that. When I got here they flipped the script and showed me a lot of love, so I love the fans.”
The Suns came into the game with a lineup that gave them little chance of winning. After all, a loss would help to secure the second-worst record in the NBA and second-best odds of landing the top pick in next month’s NBA draft lottery.
The Suns’ electric second-year guard, Devin Booker, was given the night off. He joined veterans Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Jared Dudley and Tyson Chandler as resting players who would have given Phoenix a much better chance of winning. Leandro Barbosa (hamstring) was also out.
The Kings rested Afflalo, Kosta Koufos and Tyreke Evans. Darren Collison missed the game due to a migraine.
Rookie guard Buddy Hield led the Kings with a career-high 30 points. Rookies Tyler Ulis (27 points) and Marquese Chriss (22 points) led Phoenix (24-58).