TORONTO — This time last week, Ty Lawson was playing in the second round of the Chinese Basketball Association playoffs. Though Lawson spent his first eight years as a professional in the NBA, he described the Chinese league as more physical. That could explain why, over the past few days, before the two practices with his new Washington Wizards teammates, Lawson had stretched out on the trainer’s table.
Lawson, who agreed Friday to a deal with the Wizards for the rest of the season, did not play in Game 1 against the Toronto Raptors, but he has more postseason experience over the past two weeks than anyone in this series. Still, it’s unclear whether Lawson will actually see minutes.
“I have no idea. Hopefully I get some time,” Lawson said on Monday, “but right now, just supporting the team and when my name’s called, I’ll be ready.”
“It’s not like I’ve been sitting around,” he added.
Lawson, 30, has been to the playoffs five times in his NBA career, most recently in 2016 when he played as the Indiana Pacers’ backup point guard, also against the Raptors. Lawson’s teams have never advanced past the first round, yet this experience played a role in Washington giving him a roster spot.
Locked into his CBA contract, Lawson could not leave the Shandong Golden Stars until the end of their season. While that situation seemingly made it difficult for Lawson to join an NBA team before the playoffs, the Wizards brought him in immediately following the conclusion of the Golden Stars’ playoff run. Lawson traveled to Los Angeles, then caught a red-eye flight to Washington. Last Friday, Lawson landed around 8 a.m. and a few hours later, joined the Wizards for their final practice before jetting to Toronto later that day.
“I just sat and watched,” Lawson said of his first day as a Wizard. “I was half asleep. Was out there sleepwalking.”
The team’s willingness to keep targeting Lawson — Washington had designs to bring him in sooner — must mean that there is a role for him in the near future. However, no one will say when.
“Well, the next couple of days, he’s going to be able to get familiar with both ends of the floor,” Coach Scott Brooks said before Monday’s practice. “He has the ability. He has great experience. He has the speed. He has playoff experience. So, no question he has to be ready when called on.”
While it’s unlikely for Lawson to play backup minutes behind Wall, he’s preparing just in case.
After getting his body worked on, Lawson has spent the two practice days in Toronto learning plays. During the Sunday session, he briefly scrimmaged — only light work when compared to Lawson’s experience last week when he survived the rough landscape of the CBA playoffs.
“China might be more physical. They allow more to go,” said Lawson, who also described how the lack of a defensive three-second rule in the league permits defenders to wait in the paint and hack. “The playoffs are worse. It’s a war zone out there.”
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