Bright lights not on Lydon
Nuggets rookie overshadowed
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.