Ty Lawson is not a backup.
True, he does not start for the Kings, but coach Dave Joerger believes the veteran point guard could play extended minutes any night and help the Kings win, and Lawson has done that the past two games.
Lawson made up his mind: Coming off the bench won’t hurt his game.
“Earlier in the season I did think about that,” he said. “I think that’s why I wasn’t as productive. But now I’m like, ‘Just go hard, go in there, play my game and get right to it,’ instead of worrying about if I’m going to play, when I’m coming out and stuff like that.”
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That approach benefited the Kings in wins over Portland on Tuesday and Utah on Wednesday. Joerger played Lawson a combined 55 minutes in those games because of his speed and ability to drive and provide energy. He averaged 17.5 points, 4.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds.
He’s the smallest guy on the floor with the biggest heart. To get down there and battle with the trees, he does it all.
DeMarcus Cousins, Kings center, on Ty Lawson
Joerger emphasized to Lawson that he doesn’t view him as a typical reserve.
“Generally, backups will play 16 to 18 minutes,” Joerger said. “I think he’s way better than that ... I want him to know I have the faith in him to play him longer minutes.”
Lawson, 29, saw this season as an opportunity to prove some bad decisions off the court had not stripped him of his skills and reputation as one of the NBA’s quickest point guards. Following multiple DUI arrests, including two in 2015 with Denver, Lawson admitted he struggled with his confidence last season after being traded to Houston, which waived him in March. He finished the season with Indiana.
Recently, Lawson said he wasn’t being himself on the court. He wasn’t playing aggressively, and he realized that wouldn’t get him into the paint, where he can have a big impact even though he’s 5-foot-11.
Lawson said he was “overthinking,” which caused him to make the wrong reads on offense.
“I realized about four games ago that when I come off the pick-and-roll that I’ve got to stop looking back for the pass or the crosspass,” he said. “I’ve got to look for my shot, get into the paint, and then look for somebody else or I can score, too. And if I get into the paint, I can also find better lanes to pass. That’s why I was having a lot of turnovers. I watched a lot of film and the game’s slowing down for me.”
Lawson’s ability to break down the defense and penetrate the lane is important for a team that struggles to generate offense without relying heavily on All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.
Earlier in the season I did think about that. I think that’s why I wasn’t as productive. But now I’m like, ‘Just go hard, go in there, play my game and get right to it,’ instead of worrying about if I’m going to play, when I’m coming out and stuff like that.
Ty Lawson, Kings point guard, on adjusting to a backup role
After Wednesday’s comeback win over the Jazz, Lawson drew praise from his teammates, including on social media, for kick-starting the offense.
“He’s unselfish at heart,” said guard Arron Afflalo, who played alongside Lawson in Denver. “So the more aggressive he is getting into the paint and looking for his shot, he can kick it out to shooters or get the ball to the bigs.”
Lawson continues to gain respect from his teammates. He clearly has connected with Cousins, who often can be heard trading playful barbs with him off the court.
On the court, Lawson’s attacking style is winning over teammates, regardless of when he enters the game.
“He’s the smallest guy on the floor with the biggest heart,” Cousins said. “To get down there and battle with the trees, he does it all.”