Forbes took scenic route to Denver
Ty Lawson couldn't bear to watch, but how could he not?
University of North Carolina stars Lawson and Wayne Ellington had jetted down to Orlando, Fla., for the NBA pre-draft camp in 2008. They were on separate teams, and so Lawson was a spectator as his good buddy tried (and tried and tried) to cover a guy named Gary Forbes.
"He killed Wayne," Nuggets guard Lawson said of Forbes' offensive spectacle. "I knew he was going to be a good player."
Lawson and Ellington went back to Chapel Hill for another season (and won the NCAA Tournament) while Forbes, who led the camp with 21.3 points per game, went undrafted. Denver coach George Karl said Forbes was a first-round talent who slipped because of his medical record,
But after Forbes played professionally in Italy and Israel, as well as a stint in the D-League, he made the Nuggets' roster this fall -- and has already made an impact in four games, notably Thursday's win against the Lakers.
Perhaps the most telling moment of that game happened when the former Massachusetts star grabbed a fourth-quarter rebound and started dribbling, fearlessly attacking all the way down court, capping it with a big layup.
"When he drove down the court for the layup, it made me very proud to watch him perform that way, on that stage, and during such a pivotal time of the game," said Wendell Saunders, Forbes' high school coach at Benjamin Banneker Academy in New York. "I certainly believed that was the spark that got the team going."
The 25-year-old rookie averages 7.5 points per game in 13.7 minutes, and he has impressed (and surprised) many around the league, especially with his hungry defense on folks such as Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant.
"He thinks he belongs out there," Karl said. "He plays with a lot more confidence and consistency than a lot of other young players."
Carmelo Anthony figured it would be tough for Forbes to crack the
"I have a lot of confidence in my game, probably a lot more than people know," the 6-foot-6 Forbes said. "It may hurt me, it may help me, but it's still something I have -- that Brooklyn swagger."
Forbes credits former UMass coach Travis Ford for his work ethic and believes that his time overseas hardened him as a player. This summer, Forbes said his confidence was "focused in the right direction. My energy, everything. I had tunnel vision. My mind was in one place -- the NBA.
"I told my agent (Lance Young) not to even think of any overseas teams this year. There were a lot of them calling with good money, but I turned everything down. I knew this was my year to get in the NBA. Masai (Ujiri) and Josh (Kroenke) took a chance on me, and it was a great opportunity."
Nothing is certain for Forbes. The Nuggets have four capable guards that Karl plays often, and Forbes could find himself at the end of the bench in more games than not.
"I'm definitely taking it one day at a time," Forbes said. "You never know what's going to happen. I'm having fun, but I know I still have a lot to do, a lot to accomplish. I'm at the bottom of the totem pole."