Shootaround (Nov. 13): Lakers' Nick Young starts season strong
The Rebirth of Swaggy P | Danny Ainge’s Celtics roots run deep | Retracing the Sixers’ first `Process’ draft
No. 1: The Rebirth of Swaggy P — While the young Lakers are generating lots of positive vibes based on their energy and surprising fourth-quarter steadiness under the direction of Luke Walton, perhaps the most unexpected bonus has been Nick Young. His career is experiencing a rebirth here in the early season, with Young emerging as a go-to player. This is surprising because Young was all but left for dead last season, mainly because of inconsistent play. Here’s Bill Oram of the Orange County Register on the rebirth of the cool:
“I became the bad guy over the last two years,” Young said one day in October after the Lakers wrapped up practice. “That’s something I’ve never been. I’ve been the good dude.”
Right now, all is well in the world of the Lakers starting shooting guard. He is averaging 14.7 points, knocking down 36.7 percent of his 3-point attempts and, get this, has frequently been touted by Coach Luke Walton as the team’s best perimeter defender.
“This is most definitely a redemption year,” Young said. “That’s why I’ve been working so hard, I believe in myself, believe that I’ve got talent. There were just certain situations that made me take steps backwards.”
Where to begin?
After a career year in 2013-14, in which he averaged a career-high 17.9 points per game Young, now 31, signed a four-year, $21 million contract that promised to keep him in his hometown and with the team he grew up rooting for through 2018.
If only it was that easy.
“It’s my fourth year and I was supposed to be gone a long time ago,” he said.
He assumed he would be playing overseas by now. All summer, that’s what he heard. That he would be traded or released and probably end up in China. He can joke about it now, but over the past two seasons under Coach Byron Scott, his productivity and opportunity nosedived.
Despite a glowing spread in Sports Illustrated in January 2015 that dubbed him “the man behind the swag,” Young became the goofy face of the Lakers’ downward spiral. In each of his first three seasons, the Lakers set a new franchise record for losses.
“They was just putting everything on me,” Young said. “That’s why this was the big summer for me. I heard the worst.”
No. 2: Danny Ainge’s Celtics roots run deep — The Celtics GM had a solid run in Boston as a player; he was instrumental on a team with Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale and Bill Walton. But there was also a somewhat bitter parting of the ways when Ainge was traded to the Sacramento Kings, of all teams. It was a stinging reality for Ainge but it also taught him how to build a team and reminded him that no one is untouchable (unless your name is Bird). Ainge discussed this with Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:
The end was near for the Celtics’ Big Three. Larry Bird was playing with an ailing back. Kevin McHale’s ankles had swelled to the size of golf balls.
And Robert Parish was nearly 37.
So team president Red Auerbach made a difficult move in an attempt to get younger. He traded Danny Ainge in his prime and Brad Lohaus to the Kings for Ed Pinckney and Joe Kleine.
Ten months after that February 1989 trade, Ainge faced his former team in Sacramento and dropped 39 points on the aging Big Three. Ainge, now the Celtics’ president of basketball operations, was reminded of that night after Kevin Durant scored 39 points against the Thunder on Nov. 3.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Durant joined Ainge and Stephon Marbury as players who scored the most points the first time they met their previous team. Marbury scored 39 on the Timberwolves as a member of the Nets in 2000.
Ainge fondly remembers his outburst against the Celtics on Dec. 27, 1989.
He made 12 of 21 shots, made all 13 free throws, and added six rebounds and nine assists. Ainge acknowledges he wanted payback for the trade, but he still laments the fact that the Kings lost the game, 115-112, in overtime, as Bird nearly matched Ainge with 37 points.
“The best way for me to explain it is, I grew up with two older brothers that I looked up to that were both very good players,” said Ainge. “Playing against them was always a source of pride. I sort of felt that way when I was playing against Kevin and Larry and Robert and D.J. [Dennis Johnson]. I felt like I was playing against my older brothers when you want to show them that you’ve got it. I remember being very excited and having a great game.”
No. 3: Retracing the Sixers’ ‘Process’ draft — Did the Sixers get what they wanted out of the 2013 NBA draft? Well, initially they did. Remember how Michael-Carter Williams was smashing in his NBA debut and was seemingly headed for a long and prosperous career in Philly? Well, three years later he’s on his third NBA team. That, and other developments from 2013 were retraced by Keith Pompey of the Inquirier:
It sounds like an obvious question. Or maybe it’s that the answer seems obvious. Will the 2013 NBA draft be remembered as a waste for the 76ers?
This isn’t meant to criticize the players who were drafted. Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams are both talented players. And yes, the Sixers did acquire a 2014 pick in that draft that led to their trading for Dario Saric, who is the team’s starting power forward.
The Sixers did trade away an NBA all-star in Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Noel and the pick that eventually brought Saric to Philly.The Pelicans had just selected Noel with the sixth pick of the draft.
At the time, the Sixers boasted that the 6-foot-11, 228-pound Noel was the steal of the draft. They also said the shot-blocker was going to be the face of the franchise for seasons to come. Noel would have gone first in the draft to the Cleveland Cavaliers if he had not torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during his lone season at Kentucky.
Now, three years later, the Sixers opted not to give the center a contract extension by the Oct. 31 deadline. As a result, he’ll likely become a restricted free agent in July if the team doesn’t trade him this season.
But he was just part of the 2013 draft.Let’s revisit what else happened that night.
Fifteen minutes after trading Holiday, the Sixers nabbed Noel’s childhood friend, Carter-Williams, with the 11th overall pick. Then they made a bunch of second-round moves before ultimately ending up acquiring the Washington Wizards’ 54th overall pick, Arsalan Kazemi, out of Oregon.
The Sixers told us Carter-Williams was going to be Holiday’s long-term replacement. That seemed likely after Carter-Williams finished with 22 points, 12 assists, 9 steals, and 7 rebounds in the season-opening win over the then-defending champion Miami Heat. He even ended up as the rookie of the year. The Sixers, however, shipped Carter-Williams to the Bucks on Feb. 18, 2015 in exchange for a protected draft pick from the Los Angeles Lakers in a multiple-team deal.
Carter-Williams is now sidelined with a left knee bone bruise and a sprained left wrist while being on his third NBA team, the Chicago Bulls. The Sixers, however, are still waiting on their draft pick.
The Sixers missed out on the pick in the previous two drafts and will so do, again, in June if the pick lands in slots one through three. There’s a good chance that the Sixers will get it this summer, though. The Lakers are one of the league’s most improved teams. If not, the pick becomes unprotected in 2018.
At least Carter-Williams is in the NBA and the Sixers will get something for him.
Kazemi never had a serious chance of making the Sixers. So after being stashed overseas for two seasons, the undersize power forward petitioned for and was granted his release in September 2015. He was waived by the Atlanta Hawks and later the Houston Rockets that preseason.
It can be argued now that the Sixers wasted picks by drafting these three players.
Kazemi is a great guy. He’s just not NBA material.
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