NBA AM: Lawson, Nuggets Nearing Extension?
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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For months, Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson has voiced confidence that he’ll receive a contract extension that will keep him from hitting free agency at season’s end. Despite the fact that a deal still isn’t done with the Oct. 31 deadline looming, Lawson believes something will get worked out.
“I’m still confident,” Lawson said to HOOPSWORLD. “My agent is working with Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke so I feel like in the next couple of weeks something will get done. We’ll see.”
According to sources close to the situation, the Nuggets’ current offer is in the neighborhood of $44 million over four years, which is just south of what it will likely take to get a deal done before free agency. The 2013 free agency class isn’t going to be overflowing with starting-caliber point guards like Lawson. On the open market, he could very easily receive an offer in the $12-13 million range per year.
So, while the Nuggets may need to up their offer a bit, the two sides do appear to be close enough to where an agreement can be made before the deadline.
Nuggets head coach George Karl, who tries to stay out of this side of the business as much as possible, made it clear he wants to see this and all other outside distractions eliminated.
“Right now we have to get the peripheral stuff – the trades, reading the newspaper, everyone saying we’re going to be good – out,” Karl said. “We have to get a better focus. Our training camp hasn’t been bad, but it hasn’t been a determined focus. We have 17 of our first 23 on the road, it’s not going to be easy schedule. We’re going to have to play at a high level very early in the season. I just want everything to clear up, and get going and getting ready for the beginning of the season.
“We’ve had good moments in every game. We just have to stop beating ourselves with turnovers and not making free throws. And I think we have to be more fundamentally sound and solid and when game preparation comes in make sure we’re focused too.”
While $12-13 million may seem like a high price tag for someone who isn’t a “superstar,” which the Nuggets clearly lack from the public’s standpoint, Lawson has proven his worth. He’s improved substantially over his first three seasons in the league, averaging a career-high 16.4 points and 6.6 assists last season. He may not be a “superstar” right now, but he’s progressed too much over his first three years to rule out the possibility of him becoming one over the next few seasons.
“I think a lot of players on the team could be a superstar if they’re in the right situation,” Lawson said. “I feel like we’re a group of guys who want to play and not worry about the critics.
“We have a lot of talented players on the team, at least 12-13 guys who can start anywhere in the league. It’s going to be hard to juggle it. That’s why I’m glad I’m a player and (Coach Karl) is the coach, he has to deal with it.”
With all that depth and the peripheral issues that Karl mentioned, there are going to be times where some players aren’t playing as much as they would like, maybe even Lawson included. However, he doesn’t see that or his contract as issues that can get of the way of the greater goal.
“I feel like everyone is good guys on this team,” Lawson said. “We all make sacrifices for the team. For me, if coach decides to sit me on the bench I’ll be happy to sit there and work hard in practice to get on the court. It’s all good for the team, as long as we’re winning I’m cool with it.”
Bynum Receives Another Knee Injection: Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum received another injection on his right knee as he prepares for the 2012-13 season. Bynum, who was acquired along with Jason Richardson in a four-team deal that also sent out Andre Iguodala, Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and draft picks, is being held out of 76ers training camp in its entirety due to his right knee. He underwent a procedure called Orthokine, which is an injection of platelet-rich plasma for arthritis help, that really helped his former teammate Kobe Bryant in September. It was Bynum’s first time undergoing the procedure, however, this most recent injection is something more routine.
“Just look at it as lubrication for his knees,” Bynum’s agent David Lee said to John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “He’s had them in previous years. Look at it as WD-40, for a lack of a better way of explaining it. He gets them at the start of the season, and he gets them at the All-Star break. It’s noninvasive and has nothing to do with the treatment he received in Germany.”
This is a big year for Bynum in many ways. Not only will it be his first time serving as a team’s leader and go-to guy, but his contract is also expiring. If he’s going to receive the maximum five-year contract worth $101.9 million that he’s eligible for he has to live up to expectations and, most importantly stay healthy. So while the 76ers are probably becoming a bit anxious to see him out on the court, missing training camp and the preseason will be well worth it if it helps him stay on the court when it matters.
Current reports out of Philadelphia still have Bynum on target to play in the season opener on Oct. 31 against the Denver Nuggets.
Gortat Eager To Prove Himself: Former Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash, who was signed-and-traded to the Los Angeles Lakers this summer, has made a career out of making those around him better. Suns starting center Marcin Gortat was one of those guys. Gortat played the best basketball of his career in Phoenix, thanks in part to Nash and the fact that he wasn’t stuck playing behind Dwight Howard for the first time in his career. There are a lot of questions about how Gortat will fair without Nash, which he’s eager to answer.
“Basically, I am going to try and prove that I can play without him,” Gortat said to Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns. “There was a lot of talk in the offseason about how I’m going to play and how I’m going to handle the whole situation without him. I believe I’m an experienced player already. I’ve been in the league a few years by now and I have other point guards. I have Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall. I have great passers. I’m quite sure I’ll be fine.
“I’m not going to change my game at all. I’m going to try and use my athleticism; I’m going to use my energy. Obviously, if there’s going to be an opportunity to set a screen I’m going to do that, but I’m pretty comfortable also with getting the ball down low and obviously I’m going to try to prove I’m a better post-up player this year than I was last year. I believe that 20 games in the offseason with the national team helped me, and I’m definitely energetic.”
Dragic also doesn’t see the need for Gortat to play any differently without Nash.
“It’s the same key,” Dragic said. “He has to run fast to the transition and set a screen and then when I’m come off the screen just roll fast. If the weakside is going to be inside than the shooters are open. I fnot, then Marsh is going to be open. We have so many shooters like Jared Dudley, Wes Johnson, Shannon Brown that probably they’re not going to help so much and we have that easy buck pass. I think he can be great for us. He’s a very important piece for our team.”
NBA Chats: There are two chats on top for today featuring Bill Ingram and Stephen Brotherston. Ingram kicks things off at 10 am est, while Brotherston steps up to the plate at 3 pm est.