No. 1: Lawson sees big things ahead for Nuggets — In 2012-13, the Denver Nuggets were a 57-win team and boasted and up-and-coming, exciting team that seemed on the verge of being a contender. Last season, though, was a different story, as Denver fell to 36-46, most of which could be blamed on injuries decimating the roster. Point guard Ty Lawson was one of the players who dealt with the injury bug in 2013-14, but he’s on the mend and is expecting a Nuggets bounce back in 2014-15. Our Jeff Caplan caught up with Lawson, who talked about that and more:
Expected to be back in business is forward Danilo Gallinari, a career 41.9 percent 3-point shooter who missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in April 2013. So is 7-foot center JaVale McGee, whose bid to mature his way off the Shaqtin-a-Fool all-time list was snubbed after five games due to a stress fracture in his left leg. So is Nate Robinson (missed 38 games). And Wilson Chandler (missed 20 games). And J.J. Hickson (missed 13 games). So is Lawson himself, who missed 20 games due to injury in last year’s 36-46 season, the first under coach Brian Shaw.
At the tail end of last season, the 5-foot-11 Lawson, who registered career-highs in scoring (17.6 ppg), assists (8.8) and minutes (35.8), thought about all the injuries, all the adversity (including but not limited to Andre Miller) and just how far the team had come despite the sub-.500 record. He even suggested the Nuggets could possibly be a top-four team next season.
“People,” Lawson said, “are probably going to sleep on us this year because of what happened last year.”
Lawson, heading into his sixth season in Denver, spoke to NBA.com earlier this week from Los Angeles. He believes the Nuggets are deep at every position, are determined to become a good defensive team and he still believes they can sneak up on last season’s playoff teams.
NBA.com: With so many injuries last season, the team never found a rhythm. How do you see the roster shaping up assuming good health all around?
Lawson: I think at every position we’re pretty deep. At center, we’ve got JaVale and Timofey Mozgov, who started playing well throughout the last year. We’re so deep, I think that’s a gift and a curse. Everybody is going to want to play. I already told B-Shaw, I was like, ‘yeah, it’s going to be a problem that you’re going to have, divvying up minutes and making sure everybody’s still happy.’ That’s a gift because say somebody goes down, God forbid, we’ll still have somebody step right in. Also, there’s so many different lineups we can have. We can go small, go big, we’re so versatile.
NBA.com: Everybody knew the team’s identity under George Karl. After one season under Shaw, again, considering all the injuries, has the team taken on a clear-cut identity?
Lawson: This year it’s going to be more of a defensive mindset. I already know we can score, everybody knows we can score with the best of them. But my mindset going into training camp is everybody buying into the defensive end. We’ve got to make stops. I feel like if we can do that, and score in the half court, we’ll be one of the top teams out there.
No. 2: Griffin defends Cavs’ pursuit of Calipari — The Cleveland Cavaliers had a brief series of offseason discussions with Kentucky coach John Calipari about him possibly taking on that role — and perhaps that of team president, too — that eventually never came to pass. In an interview on The Doug Gottlieb Show on CBS Sports Radio, current Cavs GM David Griffin says he didn’t have any problem with the team’s leadership pursuing Calipari to possibly join the team:
Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin appeared on The Doug Gottlieb Show on Wednesday, and he said that he didn’t feel like the organization went over his head when talking to University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think anything was ever done without my knowledge of what was being done, for one,” Griffin said. “And two, I turned down opportunities to be a GM because the fit wasn’t right, and when I sat with Dan [Gilbert] and Nate [Forbes], when we talked about our vision for the future and me having this job, I encouraged them to talk to other people. It was something that was really important to me.
“I would’ve talked to John Calipari if I was them,” Griffin continued. “I would’ve been disappointed if they didn’t. So it didn’t bother me in the least.”
Griffin also told Gottlieb that, when he took over as acting GM, his goal was “to start to build a team that was an ensemble cast around the ball-dominant play creation we had in Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.” Now with James and fellow superstar Kevin Love in the picture, Cleveland has quite the ensemble.
No. 3: Physical therapist raves over Kobe’s pain tolerance — Even if you’re not a fan of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, there’s a must-read feature by Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Ballard documenting how Bryant is dealing with the twilight of his career. A big section of the piece deals with Bryant bouncing back from his Achilles and knee injuries over the last few years. As part of his research for the piece, Ballard talked to a great many people, one of whom was the Lakers’ longtime physical therapist, Judy Seto. Seto raved about Bryant’s pain tolerance and more
“It’s the highest that I’ve ever seen. He channels his focus so well in terms of just the task at hand. But also when he’s had pain, he can block that out. I mean, I think a good example is when he tore his Achilles, he made those free throws. He blocked it out and focused. He didn’t let his mind go to the place of, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ At one time it was a career-ending injury. Your mind starts to wander and go down that road. Everyone around you, the distraction, not only your team is wondering how you’re doing, the other team, the game, the fans in the stands, everything.
”But he just focused on this. I think that’s what makes him who he is. I mean, he can take that and just block everything else out, including pain. Like I said, he’s not a reckless person. He wasn’t going to cause more damage by going out there and shooting his free throws. It was fine for him to do that. It’s just amazing.
“One of the things I saw that cemented for me his pain level, besides that episode, was he dislocated his finger. I think he was playing I want to say Cleveland, maybe Miami. But it was during the first quarter. He dislocated his finger. It’s basically like, this bone was over here. The head trainer, during a timeout, he relocated it, had him go back in.
“I think that trait makes him who he is, and his ability to focus also allows him to channel his energies. It’s not that he doesn’t feel pain; it’s how he responds. Everybody responds to pain a little differently. There’s some people that if you have an injury, you perseverate on it, an injury here can manifest to an injury over here or somewhere else in your body. It can be extremely debilitating. That’s the other stream.
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