Knee injury ends Lawal's rookie season

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Gani Lawal finally made his belated NBA debut with the Phoenix Suns. It turns out that the game against Detroit on New Year’s Eve will be his only one this season, though.

The former Norcross and Georgia Tech standout injured his right knee in practice on Thursday and will miss the rest of his rookie season after surgery.

“It was kind of devastating at first,” Lawal told reporters in Phoenix. “I’ve never been injured before in my career. I’m just going to use this time to work harder and try to come back stronger.”

Lawal was driving the baseline in practice and planting to take off for a dunk when his right knee buckled. The 6-foot-9 power forward estimated that he had made the same move at least 1,000 times.

This time he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and partially tore his medial collateral ligament.

Lawal slipped to the 16th pick in the second round after passing up his senior year at Georgia Tech to declare for the draft. But he played so well in the Las Vegas Summer League that the Suns gave him a three-year contract which is partially guaranteed the final two seasons.

Lawal received the rookie minimum of $467,000 this season although almost all of his playing time was in the NBA Development League. He appeared in 10 games with Iowa after being sent there in mid-November and averaged 11.2 points and 6.0 rebounds.

After being recalled by the Suns, Lawal finally got into an NBA game on Dec. 31. He played about two minutes in a victory over Detroit without scoring. He didn’t play in the Suns’ next two games before being hurt in practice.

Lawal was Mr. Georgia Basketball and a McDonald’s All-American in 2007 after helping lead Norcross to the Class AAAAA state title. He averaged 15.1 points and 9.5 rebounds as a sophomore at Georgia Tech and 13.1 points and 8.5 rebounds as a junior.