Bright lights not on Ly­don

Nuggets rookie over­shad­owed

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Kos­mider

LAS VE­GAS» Seats at the Thomas & Mack Cen­ter, dot­ted in thick patches of pur­ple and gold, be­gan fill­ing up more than two hours be­fore the rookie with the slick pass­ing skills, the ex­pen­sive sneak­ers and the bois­ter­ous fa­ther took the floor.

It was the Lonzo Ball show at the NBA’s Las Ve­gas sum­mer league Fri­day. So be­hind the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers’ top draft pick — se­lected No. 2 over­all — was the crowd, much of it booed when the Bos­ton Celtics’ top pick, Jayson Ta­tum, walked across the court ear­lier in the day.

Even boxer Floyd Mayweather, pop­corn in hand, grabbed a court­side seat to watch Ball’s de­but as ESPN cam­eras rolled.

A few hun­dred yards from that oth­er­worldly scene, in­side Cox Pavil­ion on the UNLV cam­pus, the Nuggets’ own first-round pick pre­pared to make to make his pro­fes­sional de­but Fri­day night with far less fan­fare.

Tyler Ly­don, se­lected by the Nuggets with the 24th over­all pick in last month’s draft af­ter a trade that moved them down in the draft or­der, will par­tic­i­pate in Las Ve­gas un­der less scru­tiny than that placed upon the team’s last two top draft picks.

Em­manuel Mu­diay and Ja­mal Mur­ray — drafted No. 7 over­all in 2015 and 2016, re­spec­tively — went from the sum­mer league to prom­i­nent roles as rook­ies. The same is un­likely to be ex­pected of Ly­don, who will find him­self at the bot­tom of a deep ro­ta­tion of for­wards. Even be­fore the draft, when the Nuggets were set to se­lect 13th, Den­ver ex­ec­u­tives said their first-round pick would be hard-pressed to see the floor much as a rookie.

Ly­don’s ar­rival in Den­ver has also been over­shad­owed by the draft-night trade that brought the Nuggets for­ward Trey Lyles, not to men­tion the ac­qui­si­tion of al­ls­tar free agent Paul Mill­sap.

But none of that tem­pered Ly­don’s eagerness to hit the floor in the sum­mer league.

“I’m con­fi­dent in my abil­i­ties,” Ly­don said this week. “It’s just a mat­ter of go­ing out there and show­ing th­ese guys what I can


Ly­don was drafted as a player who could stretch the floor with his range. Micah Nori, the Nuggets’ coach dur­ing the sum­mer league, said Ly­don showed that con­sis­tent stroke dur­ing prac­tice this week. He shot 40 per­cent from the 3-point line dur­ing his two sea­sons at Syracuse.

The Nuggets will play Ly­don at mul­ti­ple spots in the sum­mer league, which could in­clude the cen­ter po­si­tion in small line­ups. Nori is ea­ger to see how Ly­don re­acts on the de­fen­sive end in var­i­ous sit­u­a­tions.

“A lot of times those Syracuse kids come in and get a lit­tle bit of a rough knock be­cause they play zone,” Nori said. “The one thing great about him is he lis­tens and par­takes in his own re­cov­ery. What I mean by that is he’ll make mis­takes and want to know why he did that. We have some zone prin­ci­ples in our de­fense, and he’s good there. But just to play man-to-man, and the mul­ti­ple ef­forts it takes … that’s new for him. Even in the four prac­tices we’ve had, he’s done a good job catch­ing up de­fen­sively.”

Gallo’s mes­sage. Vet­eran for­ward Danilo Gal­li­nari, who was ac­quired by the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers in a sign-and-trade deal this week, left a mes­sage for Nuggets fans on his so­cial me­dia ac­counts Fri­day.

“Thank you #den­ver for show­ing me 7 amaz­ing sea­sons and for mak­ing me feel at home,” Gal­li­nari wrote. “Gra­zie di tutto (thanks for ev­ery­thing).”

Gal­li­nari will be of­fi­cially in­tro­duced by the Clip­pers at a news con­fer­ence in Las Ve­gas on Satur­day.

Syracuse prod­uct Tyler Ly­don is play­ing in the NBA sum­mer league in Las Ve­gas as a first-round draft pick of the Nuggets.

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