Q&A: Ty Lawson

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Thursday, January 15, 2015 with No comments
Courtesy of Dime

DimeYou invested in a clothing store, Thrill City, this past summer. What is it about Thrill City that made you want to become a part-owner?


Ty Lawson: It’s big that they’re based in Chapel Hill, NC. I want to keep my roots and my feet in Chapel Hill and really help it grow from there. And they’ve got cool concepts and stuff they’re working with, and I just saw the opportunity to help it grow into something bigger.

D: One of those cool Thrill City designs is their “SCAM” shirts poking fun at the NCAA. They’re some of the store’s best-seller and you’ve even modeled them in photos recently. What about those shirts specifically has you extra interested?
TL: I feel like everybody thinks that the NCAA is exploiting these kids – especially basketball and football players. I know they’re getting scholarships, but they produce a lot of money off being in video games and putting their numbers on jerseys and stuff, and schools and the NCAA are the only ones making a profit. The players aren’t getting anything; [the NCAA] is taking it all. And then there’s something like a coach basically just driving down the street during a recruiting visit and the players get in trouble, suspended, or whatever. So I just think it’s not equal, right? Maybe it should be like 60-40 or 70-30, but it can’t be that they get 100 percent of that money and we get nothing when we’re so easily penalized for breaking rules. 
DSo it’s safe to that you think college athletes getting “paid” for their services in scholarship only is unfair, right?
TL: Yeah, it’s a little unfair. Take [Toronto Raptors forward and Lawson’s UNC teammate] Tyler Hansbrough. He got paid in education, but he made so much money for the NCAA – probably more than his scholarship was worth. Maybe even ten times more. And most big-time players are like that, too, so I just think it’s not equal.
DAnd we actually saw a pretty good example of what you’re talking about with [Georgia running back] Todd Gurley. He took what the NCAA called improper benefits, was suspended for several games as a result and then tore his ACL in his first game back. Do you think a guy like Gurley or another player looks at his school and the NCAA making so much money off his likeness and uses that as justification for breaking the rules?
TL: Yeah. I guess if somebody is offering that – a booster or something, whatever they’re offering – it’s definitely easier to take if you see that the school is selling your jersey with your name and you’re not getting a dime from it. I mean you get an education, but like I said other people are making more money off of you than that scholarship is worth. What exactly were Gurley’s improper benefits? I don’t know that story?
DHe signed some stuff and received compensation once it was sold. I think it was just a couple thousand dollars… (Editor’s note: Gurley accepted just over $3,000 for autographed memorabilia)
TL:Well the school definitely makes more than a couple thousand dollars off his jersey, shoes, or anything else people buy because he plays. Man, that’s crazy. Crazy.
DSo you have a pretty strong opinion on this stuff now, but you’ve obviously been out of college for several years. Did you think about it at all when you were at Carolina?
TL: A little bit. ‘Cause I protested… I think they wanted me to sign a paper when I was at UNC that said they could use my likeness for a NCAA camp or whatever, and I refused for like three weeks. I’m not seeing anything from it, so why would I sign something so they could see something from it? So I did kind of boycott it for a few weeks before my parents ended up convincing me to do it.
D:One more thing about Thrill City. You have your own line with them, T3L. Can you tell me about its and what you’re trying to build from there?
TL: It’s just my logo. I just feel like I’m at that point where I can do something like that because I’m starting to build a base of fans. And that’s actually going to springboard into my next line, something I’m starting with Nate Robinson here in a little bit.
DLet’s switch gears a bit and talk some hoops. Some of the retired point guards have talked a lot about how today’s league lacks “true” point guards – Gary Payton recently said that Chris PaulRajon Rondo, and Tony Parker are the only players he considers such. Does that bother you at all?
TL: I mean, the point guard position has changed with the rules in the NBA. For the rules to be that you can’t really put your hands on offensive players, it allows guards to score more and get to the basket more. [Payton] is right to a point: There’s no true point guards because like Russell Westbrook would have been considered a two-guard, but now he’s a scoring point guard, which is really what the leagues has turned into. Guards have to score to be relevant in this league.
DAn overlooked aspect of point guard play and ballhandling in general is pace and patience. That’s really something that you’ve improved on over the past few years, too. For a guy that’s so fast with the ball, was that nuance difficult to learn?
TL: Yeah, a little bit. When you hear everybody saying, “You’re so fast!” it makes it easy to believe that I can just beat everybody off the dribble whenever I want. And that started taking a toll on my body, too; if I want to stay in the league 10-15 years, I had to slow it down and just try and read defenses and using change of pace to fool people with as quick as I am. To change pace and still be quick creates so much damage – that’s why Chris Paul is so deadly because he can change speeds and then “boom!” get to the basket. 
DThis is something I ask all point guards I talk to – what’s the hardest part about defending for you in the modern NBA?
TL: With point guard defense, man, you can’t touch anybody. It’s almost impossible to be able to stay in front of a point guard in this league nowadays. You can’t touch ‘em; once you touch ‘em it’s a foul. So you just got to try and contain them. And somebody that can shoot like Steph Curry and dribble and get past you? You’re gonna have a long night.
DWhat about navigating ball-screens? We see so much of that in today’s game, and for a guy your size that must be especially difficult.
TL: Well on offense that’s great for me, there being so much pick-and-roll. In today’s game point guards don’t really play against each other. It’s really point guards versus the big because you do so much pick-and-roll. So when you come off the screen and the big’s not up, you shoot the ‘J.’ If he’s too far up, you just go around him. So it’s really not one-on-one with the other point guard. When people pull up stats of Steph Curry versus Ty Lawson and all that, it’s really Steph Curry versus our 4 and 5 men and me versus theirs. You really don’t guard the opposing point guard except when they’re bringing up the ball, to be honest.
DSo is there a big guy who you helping in ball-screen situations that’s more difficult to attack than any other?
TL: Oh yeah, I’ve got two: Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams. When they’re coming up to the pick-and-roll I want to get the ball out of my hands as soon as possible.
DMan. That must make the Thunder pretty tough having to deal with those two guys and then Russ, too. I can’t even imagine.
TL: Oh yeah. Definitely. ‘Cause they’re so aggressive and they can move so well laterally that it’s tough to get around them and see an open passing lane.
DYou were bothered by a balky ankle early this season, but your play has really come on in recent weeks. Is there a specific reason as to why you’re shooting and finishing so much better now?
TL: Actually, the first month and-a-half of the season my ankle was still really hurting. I was trying to find other ways to do things. Like if I got past my man, I couldn’t go off one foot and lay it up the way I normally could. So I was trying to figure out other ways for us to score – that’s why my assists were up so much. But now that my shot’s falling, I feel like I can use my ability to get to the basket and jump much better. I’m really just feeling like my old self again. 
DDespite those ankle issues, you’re one of just two point players in the league [Ed. noteJohn Wall is the other] to average a points-assists double-double. People aren’t really talking about you that way. What do you think you need to get a little more attention, and maybe even garner some All-Star consideration this year?
TL: In the West you gotta win. Like if you’re not really winning, you’re just not gonna be an All-Star. It’s so competitive at the point guard position in the West – Mike Conley and Damian Lillard are putting up big numbers on winning teams, but one of them will probably be disappointed by the All-Star [selections] this year. There are just so many great guards in the West.
DLast question: Despite your guys’ relative struggles in the first half of the season, you’re just a few games back [Ed. note: Nuggets are currently 3 1/2 games behind Phoenix Suns for final playoff birth] of eighth-place in the West. You’re playing really well right now, Kenneth Faried’s been much better recently. So how confident are you that you guys can remain in the thick of the playoff race for the rest of the season?
TL: I feel like if we stay right here just a few games back until everybody gets healthy, we’ll be able to make it into the playoffs or at least have a fighting chance. When Danilo [Gallinari] gets back, Randy [Foye] gets back, JaVale [McGee] gets back – we’ve just been injured so much the last two seasons that we haven’t had a chance to show-off who we really are. So you know, if we can just stay right here and not go on any big losing streaks or anything like that, I really feel like we’ll be able to fight for a playoff spot come March and April.


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