Twenty-eight games into this thing, perhaps the most-infuriating story line for Denver has been Ty Lawson, because he hasn't often played like Ty Lawson.
Yes, he's had a few amazing games, but his production has been like a roller coaster. I often use that recent five-game road trip as a microcosm for the point guard's season.
He scored a season high at Atlanta, made one field goal at Indiana, played one good half at New York, basically single-handedly won the game at Detroit and then basically single-handedly blew the game at Minnesota.
What must be the most frustrating facet of this fourteener of frustration is the crunchtime performances. He just doesn't seem to have the fury and poise to close a team out. Yes, some nights he does, but I can think of a quintet of games where he made major mistakes in a close game. And it's not even January yet.
There was the Jazz game, where he hesitantly penetrated, couldn't get a final shot off and ended up passing it to Corey Brewer with like negative-two seconds on the clock.
The Atlanta game was an amazing offensive performance, but two turnovers at the end kept Denver from stealing a win against a pretty good Hawks squad.
In New York, Lawson fumbled and stumbled.
I already mentioned the Minnesota game.
And then in the recent home game against the Spurs, Denver did win, but remember the Spurs' three 3s on one possession late in the game? Well, San Antonio wouldn't have had a chance if Lawson hadn't made a lackadaisical bounce pass that was stolen.
Rajon Rondo plays with fury. Chris Paul plays with hunger. These guys are the standard. Lawson must play with traits like these. He must yearn for the ball late. He can't be afraid to fail, because whatever he is doing now is lead- ing to some failures.
The Nuggets talk and talk about him emerging as a leader. Well, in sports, there are leaders who thrive because of their words (think Kevin Garnett in a teammate's face). And there are leaders who lead because they want to carry the team. If Lawson can show this regularly, it will help him grow as a leader. It will help him grow into a player worthy of the money he will make in years to come.
Praise for Patrick. Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap has a protégé on the Nuggets' bench. Patrick Mutombo, a Denver assistant coach, played for Dunlap at Metro State. Before the Nuggets-Bobcats game Saturday, Dunlap said of Mutombo: "He's second to none. He really wants to be in the NBA and he's being polished right now. And the Nuggets are lucky to have someone who speaks five languages. He's very good with players and understands the culture of the NBA."
Mutombo is in his second season with the Nuggets and works hard with many players, notably Timofey Mozgov.
The Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman posts analysis, notes and more on this blog focussing on the Denver Nuggets.