Young Feeling Swaggy After Solid Preseason Debut
It’s hard to find anybody throughout the NBA who has as much fun playing basketball as Nick Young does.
However, the Los Angeles native simply wasn’t able to find that joy last year, recording career-low stats and sitting the last month of the season while simultaneously dealing with a highly-publicized off-court incident with teammate D’Angelo Russell.
It’s only been two games in the preseason, but the trademark “Swaggy P” smile has returned to the hardwood as he finds therapy in playing for the Lakers again.
“It was exactly what I needed getting back there on the court,” Young said. “After everything I’ve been through, I need to keep a level head and go out there and have fun and play basketball.”
The nine-year veteran made his preseason debut Friday night, starting the second half at head coach Luke Walton’s direction.
An off-the-bench scorer for most of his career, Young lived up to his reputation in Sunday’s exhibition against Denver, notching six points in 10 minutes on a pair of 3-pointers.
“It felt good,” said Young, who shot 2-of-4. “I haven’t played in a while in an NBA game. Just to get back out there and try to get my rhythm back, try to get in the flow of the game — it felt good.”
So far, Young and Walton have each enjoyed what the other has brought to the team this early in the preseason.
After Young hit his first triple on Friday, Walton turned to the bench and said, “Nick is hot. Let’s run another play for him.”
Sure enough, the Lakers went to Young on the next possession after a Denver timeout, as Walton called for an “elevator doors” screen action to free Young for an open 3-pointer, which he buried.
Young appreciated his coach feeding him so quickly and the surge confidence that followed.
“Luke is a real cool dude,” Young said. “Surfer guy, just a beach guy to me. He knows what he’s doing. He can relate to the players. He’s a players’ coach for sure. He’s just got it. I think all the players are buying in, listening and trying to do things the right way.”
Walton was happy enough with Young’s brief performance on Friday that he said he might start the 31-year-old at small forward in Sunday’s rematch with the Nuggets if Luol Deng (bruised knee) can’t play.
“Nick did great,” Walton said. “He gave us some scoring and he helped space the floor, which I’m obviously trying to find ways to do. He knocked down some shots for us.”
Young, of course, will have to succeed in the regular season in order to prove that he is back to being the same player who led the Lakers in scoring three years ago.
However, he has looked promising through the first two weeks of training camp and preseason.
He has meshed with teammates — including rookie Brandon Ingram, whom he nicknamed “Tiny Dog” after watching “The Secret Life of Pets,” with his son, Nick Jr., also known as “Lil’ Swaggy.”
On the court, Young is looking to leave past woes behind. According to Walton, he has even shown glimpses of at least softening his status as a below-average defender.
“Nick in his career has at times been a good on-ball defender when he’s bought into it,” Walton said. “He’s a big body that can guard and knock down shots.
“I thought he did a good job of not playing at all in the first game and a half and staying ready, getting out there and knocking some shots down.”
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