DENVER (AP) - Ty Lawson has signed a four-year, $48 million extension with the Denver Nuggets. The deal eliminates a distraction that's been hanging over the team and its star point guard for weeks.
``It Looks like im going to be a nugget for another 4 yrs..Thanks to the Kronke family, Masai, nuggets fans and everybody 4 believing In me'' Lawson tweeted before the team flew to Philadelphia on Tuesday for its season opener Wednesday night.
A team spokesman told The Associated Press after the team's arrival in Philadelphia that Lawson had signed his extension. The Denver Post reported the deal was worth $48 million.
Lawson averaged 16.4 points and almost seven assists last season, his first as a starter. Since jumping from to the NBA in 2009 after leading North Carolina to the NCAA championship, he's averaged 12 points and 4.8 assists.
``We felt Ty was ready to take on a lot of responsibility last season and he proved he could handle it,'' team vice president Masai Ujiri said in a statement Tuesday night. ``He is maturing as a leader on the court and in the locker room, so it was an easy decision for us to sign him to an extension.''
Easy decision but difficult negotiation.
Ujiri first spoke of an extension for Lawson on the day after the season ended in the spring, but the issue dragged on and on.
Lawson had said in recent days that the contract impasse was weighing on him, and coach George Karl lamented that the business of basketball wasn't the right energy to have in the days leading up to the regular season.
Without a deal by Wednesday, Lawson would have been eligible for restricted free agency next year, and another team could have front-loaded an offer that would have made it difficult for Denver to match.
More importantly, without a new deal, the star of the team would have been making $2.55 million this season, less than eight of his teammates, including backup big man JaVale McGee, who inked a deal in the offseason that will pay him some $10 million this season.
Now Lawson is the second-highest paid player on the team behind Andre Iguodala, who will make about $14 million in 2012-13.
``This new contract is a reflection of his hard work and dedication throughout the past three seasons with our organization,'' Nuggets president Josh Kroenke said. ``Ty is a dynamic player, a wonderful person, and someone we expect to lead us into the future.''
Karl has said Lawson must become more consistent on the floor and embrace more of a leadership role like he did - at times - during Denver's seven-game playoff loss to the Los Angeles Lakers last spring.
``I think so much of leadership is your daily attitude, daily energy and daily approach. I'm not a big believer that leadership comes from your mouth. I think it comes from your actions,'' Karl said. ``Ty is usually very good at that when we get 5-on-5 oriented.
``Some of the other stuff, I think Ty understands what he has to do this year. I think he's ready. After Game 1 of the Laker series, he was one of the top two or three guys on the court in most of the games. That's the type of consistency we need him to bring every game. He's got to understand it's an 82-game schedule and who you beat isn't as important as how many you win. Ty sometimes gets caught up in the spotlight game, but not every game.''
Recently, Lawson said Karl didn't wait for training camp to start harping on him about being more of a leader. He said Karl was ``texting me all summer.'' He saved the 20 or so texts, and they were all like this one, Lawson said:
``Leadershp, what are you doing? are you leading right now. I'm asleep, it's 12.''
It's not really anything new from Karl.
``When I first got to the team, I don't think it was my role. He wanted me to be a leader then,'' Lawson said. ``But what do you want me to say to Carmelo and Kenyon? I'm a rookie. Now I'm in more of a position to be a leader.''
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AP Sports Writer Pat Graham contributed.
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Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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