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Rockets GM acknowledges risk in trade for 'playmaker' Ty Lawson

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was being honest.

When the Rockets finalized a deal to trade four players, a lottery-protected 2016 first-round draft pick and cash considerations to the Denver Nuggets for troubled point guard Ty Lawson and a 2017 second-round pick, that deal came with risk -- major risk.

"I think when you're trying to get the best team out of 30, you got to take risk all over the place," Morey said Monday on a conference call with reporters. "Again, it's a playing risk, injury risk, character risk. We feel Ty is someone we wanted to add to our team."

Lawson, who finished third in the NBA with a career-high 9.3 assists per game the past season, is currently in rehab in Los Angeles following his second DUI arrest this year. A Denver judge ruled last week that Lawson won't face DUI charges in California and Colorado until he completes his 30-day residential treatment program.

Lawson was arrested on suspicion of DUI last week in Los Angeles, seven months after the same thing occurred in Denver.

Morey said that once Lawson, 27, is released from rehab, more will be determined about his aftercare program. When that occurs, the Rockets are getting one of the better playmakers in the league.

Lawson finished second in the NBA with 19.3 assist opportunities per game and fourth with 22.7 points created by assists per game.

Morey said he consulted with leading scorer James Harden and starting center Dwight Howard regarding the deal, and each gave their blessing. Harden, who is close with Lawson, was the key, considering he handled the ball a team-leading 76.9 percent of the time. The Rockets expect that number to decrease with Lawson on the floor. When the 2014-15 season ended, Harden said the team was in need of another playmaker in the backcourt to ease the burden on him.

"He's one of the best playmakers in the league," Morey said of Lawson. "If you look at the leaderboard for assists in the last few years or since he's been in the league, he's near the top. I think, as we saw, especially when [Harden] played a couple of teams last year, we struggle against teams that really load on James Harden, and we feel Ty will be a lot more difficult for teams to do that."

According to Lawson's agent, Happy Walters, he is excited to join the Rockets.

"Yeah, they're tight," Walters told ESPN of the relationship between Lawson and Harden. "He played with Corey [Brewer] in Denver. They know each other well. He knows Dwight [Howard] -- he's our client, Corey is our client. Ty has been in this league, and he knows what's up, and he's taking care of himself."

In the deal, the Rockets traded reserve power forward Joey Dorsey and backup guards Nick Johnson, Kostas Papanikolaou and Pablo Prigioni.

The Nuggets released Prigioni after the deal was finalized.

To make the deal happen, Grantland's Zach Lowe reported Lawson made the final year of his contract, in 2016-17, non-guaranteed. Morey wouldn't confirm the financial details.

Lawson is scheduled to make $12.4 million this season and $13.2 million the final year of his deal. The thinking is if Lawson has a strong season on and off the court, with the expected jump in the salary cap, he could cash in with a big contract next year.

It's a risk, not only for him but also for the Rockets, considering his two alcohol-related arrests this year.

"We take those very seriously," Morey said. "He's had some very serious incidents in his past and in his recent past. We feel like he's part of the Rockets family now, and through our conversations with him, we feel confident he's getting the help he needs, and he's taken that step."