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Denver Nuggets president Josh Kroenke provided some interesting insight into the team’s troubled relationship with Ty Lawson, but emphasized the organization is rooting for the recently traded point guard to succeed.
Lawson was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol on July 14, his second arrest for the same charge in the last six months, and the Nuggets traded him to the Houston Rockets five days later. He is currently attending a 30-day residential rehabilitation program.
Kroenke told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday in a phone interview that the Nuggets had been privately trying to help Lawson with his issues for “the past couple of years” and that there had been problems for a long time.
Kroenke said he had repeated conversations with Lawson about his “life struggles,” adding that Lawson often said he would attempt to fix his issues but he could “never fully shake them.”
“He always had an affinity for burning the candle at both ends,” Kroenke said. “We want to give our players freedom to be young guys as well. We’re not going to be drill sergeants. But we want our guys to be able to handle their personal lives on their own.
“Ty … there were times when he was better than others. But the problems have been there for several years, going back to when we were having a lot of on-court success. I don’t want to go back too far. There were just a lot of times where you were at practice and you just know. You could smell it. You know there is probably deeper issues than he would probably let on.”
Kroenke reached a breaking point with Lawson when the guard skipped the Nuggets’ first practice after the NBA All-Star break in February after spending time in Las Vegas. Kroenke said he hadn’t talked to Lawson much since then, but continued to support him. Most of Lawson’s front office communication since the All-Star Break had been with Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly. “I love Ty and will always love Ty, but once I saw him going down this dark path, we knew that we probably were going to end up in a situation where we were dumping him,” Kroenke said. “It creates a weird dynamic.”
Lawson was traded along with a 2017 second-round pick to Houston for a lottery-protected first-round pick in 2016, cash considerations, and Nick Johnson, Kostas Papanikolaou, Pablo Prigioni and Joey Dorsey, ending a tumultuous run with Denver.
“There weren’t a lot of teams [interested in Lawson],” Kroenke said. “Houston was in a position where this could put them over the top. We’re fully aware of that. We couldn’t look at this deal from any perspective but our own.
“In the long run, I hope [the trade] is a good thing for Ty Lawson, the person. There are no guarantees. Sometimes you just need to hear the message from a different person. Sometimes a change of scenery is the best thing for all parties. That’s the way we looked at this. … I think Ty Lawson, the person, is starting to understand more so than he ever has the things he needs to do in order to keep his career on track and more importantly get his life on track.”
Lawson will be joining a talented Rockets team that features All-Star guard James Harden and talented center Dwight Howard to help take the offensive pressure off him.
“[The Nuggets] understood what was best for Ty,” Lawson’s agent Happy Walters told Yahoo Sports via text. “They actually care, and it’s rare for owners and GMs to put players’ well-being first.”
Although Lawson could be in an ideal situation, it’s still unclear when he’ll be able to join the Rockets. Lawson's next court appearance is Aug. 20 in Denver for January’s DUI arrest.
“I am hopeful he will be ready [for training camp],” Walters said. “He is going to spend time working on himself. Basketball will come after.”
The Nuggets hope talented rookie Emmanuel Mudiay, the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft who impressed at the Las Vegas Summer League, can offset the loss of Lawson. But Kroenke said the organization’s thoughts won’t be far from their former point guard.
“I fully expect Ty to have success [with Houston],” Kroenke said. “We’re going to be cheering him on. I think he’s going to have a lot of fans in Denver, Colorado.”