Raise your hand if you thought, during the 2016 offseason, that Nick Young would be one of the Lakers’ best players and veteran leaders. Ok, put your hands downs liars. No one was thinking that, probably not even Nick Young himself. Ok he probably was, but that just shows how delusional he is/was. It was only this spring where the whole scandal involving him and D’Angelo Russell happened, leading to Nick Young’s engagement with rapper Iggy Azalea getting broken up. At one point it looked like the Los Angeles Lakers would have had to choose between point guard of the future D’Angelo Russell and 30-year old role player Nick Young, and any person would tell you which was the smart decision.
Nick Young ended up staying with Los Angeles but it did not create much excitement. In fact, many wanted him gone. He was an inefficient shoot-first guard who was very immature and too much of a goof to take seriously. In his eyes, every shot he took was a heat-check, even when he was struggling. He did have the ability to catch on fire every now and then, but it did not happen much. In his last two seasons he averaged 9.9 ppg, .8 apg (yes you read that correctly), and 2 rpg on 35.3% FG and 34.6% from three. On top of all this, he nicknamed himself Swaggy P did not play any defense at all. So it is fair to see why no one had any high expectations for him. He was a Shaqtin’ A Fool All-Star.
Oh what a difference a coaching can make. When Luke Walton was hired, everyone was excited for the relationship he would build with the younger players; little did we know, that veterans would benefit as well. Walton has turned “Swaggy P” into a different player. Young starts at shooting guard for the young Los Angeles Lakers who currently sit at a surprising 9-9 record. He is averaging 14.1 ppg while shooting a very efficient (especially for him) 45.7% on field goals and 42% from 3-pt range (elite for anyone). He has held his own out there is showing that he can be a quality starting shooting guard in the National Basketball Association.
The biggest surprises, however, are his defense and his veteran presence. Luke Walton has made Nick Young the team’s primary defensive stopper. He has gotten Young to buy in on defense and put 100% effort into every play. “Swaggy P” has also become a positive veteran influence in a young (no pun intended) locker-room. Who would have thought that prior to the season? For that alone Luke Walton deserves a Nobel Peace prize. Partially due to all this, Young decided to rename himself “Uncle P’” instead of “Swaggy P” because he was supposed to be a veteran influence for the team.
With all these changes, he still hasn’t lost his joyfulness and goofiness which made him an entertaining player to watch (good and bad reasons). He hit a game-winning three-pointer on Tuesday vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder but that too happened in Nick Young fashion. Teammate Brandon Ingram had the ball on the left-elbow behind the arc, drove in, and passed it to the top of the key to guard Louis Williams, who had a wide-open three-pointer. However, Nick Young was running around at this time, intercepted the pass intended for someone else, and made the three-pointer. Only to Nick Young this would happen. A good sign after the game was him mocking D’Angelo Russell’s “Ice in my veins” celebration. It seems that they are on the road to relationship reparation.
Never in my life would I have thought that Nick Young was capable of all this. He always had talent and a good knack for scoring; he just went about it the wrong ways. He just needed the right coach to put him in place and to give him the right responsibilities. He has become a respectable player who has also been one of the most valuable Lakers. Hopefully he keeps it up for the next 64 games.
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