SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Ty Lawson is trying to rebuild his image — along with his NBA career.
Following a tumultuous year in which he was arrested twice for DUI and entered alcohol rehab, lost his starting job with the Houston Rockets and spent the final 13 games of the season mostly coming off the bench in Indiana, the veteran point guard is in Sacramento on a one-year prove-it contract.
And that’s just what the 28-year-old former first-round draft pick intends to do — on and off the court.
“Sometimes, an experience, you have to grow from it,” Lawson said Monday at the Kings’ media day. “I think I’ve grown a lot and I’m just ready to move forward. I heard a GM said, ‘I think he lost a step. He can’t shoot anymore.’ I’ve got a lot to prove and I got a chip on my shoulder to prove it.”
Lawson joins a crowded depth chart at point guard that includes holdover Darren Collison along with newcomers Garrett Temple and Jordan Farmar.
With Collison facing a likely NBA suspension following his conviction on a misdemeanor domestic abuse charge stemming from an incident in May, Lawson is projected as the season-opening starter.
Coach Dave Joerger, who takes over the Kings after spending the last three seasons in Memphis, made it clear he’s got high expectations for Lawson.
“I’m counting on Ty to be a pro,” Joerger said. “It’s an important year for him. I have a lot of confidence in him. I’m looking forward to him playing well and being a leader for our team.”
Lawson actually signed with Sacramento following a pep talk with an unlikely Kings supporter — former coach George Karl, who had previously coached Lawson when the two were in Denver. Lawson spent his first six seasons with the Nuggets, four of them with Karl as his coach.
Karl coached the Kings for the final 30 games in 2014 and all of 2015 before being fired in the offseason. Although the situation in Sacramento ended messy for Karl, he gave the franchise a ringing endorsement to Lawson.
“I talked to him three or four times before I made the decision to come here, just about the organization, how everything is, was it really as bad as what everybody was saying,” Lawson said. “He had good things to say. That’s what made me ultimately choose Sacramento over New Orleans.”
While with the Nuggets, Lawson was a budding star while averaging more than 14 points and six assists during his time there. His off-court issues, however, led to a parting he neither wanted nor expected.
Lawson was traded to the Rockets following his second DUI arrest in a six-month period. Lawson also had two previous DUI arrests.
After initially starting for Houston, Lawson went to the bench after coach Kevin McHale was fired early in the season and eventually had his contract bought out.
That led to a short stint in Indiana where Lawson played 13 games with one start, tinkered with his shot and ultimately lost faith in his own abilities.
“I feel like that whole year I wasn’t even really sure who I was,” Lawson said. “Last year my confidence was gone. I started second-guessing myself. I actually went back to my 2013 playoffs (tapes) when I was playing the Warriors and I was like, ‘Did I actually do this?’ I had to get myself back to the right mindset.”
It wasn’t an easy thing to do, not with fans and media scrutinizing his every move following the two DUI arrests.
Lawson understands why he got the looks and why people were so quick to offer their opinions on his situations.
He also says the public perception of him is wrong.
“The person that I’m portrayed out there, I don’t think people know who I really am,” Lawson said. “It’s kind of tough, going through that day by day. In the microscope, anything I do people are like, ‘Aw man look at him,’ looking to the side, giving you the side-eye. So I’ve definitely changed as a person.
“I’m just a fun-loving guy that loves to play basketball. I just got in trouble a couple times but that doesn’t change what I’ve done or who I am.”