Earlier, I wrote a piece encouraging Nick Young to leave his ego at the door for the betterment of the team. In order to cash in on his talent, I reasoned, Young needed to evolve from the shameless gunner he’s been throughout his NBA career in order to fit Mike D’Antoni’s run and gun style that relies heavily on fluid ball movement.
And while its an unfathomably small sample size, Nick Young has shown no signs of taking my advice. He’s been the same quick-triggered, overconfident gunner that he’s always been. In the home opener vs. the Clippers, Young had a classic Nick Young game-he crossovered and step-backed his way to 13 points on 3-10 shooting with a grand total of 0 assists. The performance looked pretty, sure, but that’s about it; TNT cut to Kobe shaking his head in disgust after Young missed one of the many contested jumpers he seems to shoot each and ever game.
In his next two starts, Young combined to score 12 points on 3-12 shooting and did so in similar shameless fashion. It almost seems at times that Young cares more about how cool he looks playing basketball than how well he’s doing it. Nick Young accomplished something in only three games that I previously thought impossible: he managed to be benched by Mike D’Antoni for shooting too much! I could sit here and tear the man apart, but Kobe–as Kobe always seems to do–hit the nail on the head as to how Laker fans felt about Nick Young’s start better than I ever could have with this legendary death stare.
After D’Antoni benched Young in favor of Xavier Henry, something curious happened. In the first half of his first game off the bench against the Hawks, Young had three assists. I’m not even one bit joking when I pose the question, was that his career high for assists in a half? His strong play carried over to the second half, and Young looked like a much more willing passer than he had in the previous three games.
In tonight’s game against the Mavericks, Young was a bright spot, scoring a team-high 21 points on an efficient 8-12 shooting. I’ve always thought Young was more fit to come off the bench- he’s simply too one-dimensional to start on an NBA team with hopes of making the playoffs. Young’s more fit to be an instant-offense sixth man, a change of pace guy who can create his own shot and light it up against second units across the league.
We knew coming into the season that someone would have to fill Kobe’s void in the starting lineup and do all that they can to try and make up for Kobe’s scoring production. It seems that Xavier Henry is more suited to be the player who starts while giving the team an aggressiveness it needs, while Young gives the team that scoring punch I hoped he’d give while starting but in a bench role instead. This Laker rotation is a work in progress, for sure- MDA’s been playing with different lineups and substitution patterns (still not enough Jordan Hill…)–but one thing seems clear: Nick Young will be this team’s sixth man, and a good one at that.