Ty Lawson knows what the NBA was thinking: Teams had given up on him.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” he said. “100 percent.”

The Washington Wizards point guard is also sure of why NBA general managers and coaches were keeping their distance.

“Everybody says I have a problem with drinking alcohol,” Lawson said. “I don’t really have a drinking problem. I don’t drink that much, to be honest. Only when I go out with friends [on occasion] … to clarify that, I don’t think I am an alcoholic at all. I am not.”

Less than 48 hours earlier, Lawson was still feeling the sting of losing in the first-ever Game 7 in Chinese Basketball Association playoff history. Hours after finishing with 14 points and six assists for Shandong in a 105-95 semifinal loss to Zhejiang Guangsha, Lawson found out the Wizards were ready to sign him for the NBA’s postseason.

You could hear it in his voice when he took a jab at Georgia earlier this year, saying that making one SEC championship game doesn’t mean anything and, “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.” You can see it, too, when he tugs on the Florida logo on his polo shirt, talking about what the “Gator Standard” means to him and how to get back to that level of success.

Slowly but surely, players are starting to believe.

They admit that their confidence was shaken toward the end of last season. Franks called it “one of my lowest times.” After squeaking by Vanderbilt at home, the team crumbled, losing six of its last seven games to finish 4-7. The way McElwain left, with unsubstantiated accusations of death threats against him and his family, only made matters worse.

“We were trying to keep everything together, and then it was a snowball effect,” veteran wideout Freddie Swain said. “One thing went wrong and then after that everything went wrong.”

A little less than a month later, Mullen was introduced as Florida’s next head coach.
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