You may get the joy out of calling him “Swaggy P.” Some, including myself, would argue that he’s been the splash of entertainment that keeps Los Angeles afloat in the NBA’s sea of sinking ships this season.
Due to the player option resting in his current contract, he’s one of the many on this Lakers roster that feels the need to audition. If Young indeed opts to use the upcoming player option, it will in search for a larger payday, whether we can collectively agree he deserves it or not. He’s had his fun with the Los Angeles media, claiming he is “proud to be a Laker” on numerous occasions. Exercising the opt-out feature will give him an opportunity to re-sign with the purple and gold for a more attractive deal financially.
Lower the swag meter for just a second, and get down to business.
The Lakers, in all likelihood, would find it out of the question to throw a bulk of their money to Young this upcoming offseason, considering they’re still not aware what the future plans read. If Carmelo Anthony reaches the NBA free agent market, it’s easy to say “we’re passing on the league’s second leading scorer to make a run at Kevin Love in 2015,” but that’s a situation that General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Owner Jim Buss could take advantage of. With Bryant’s lucrative tw0-year contract set to hit the books next season, Los Angeles will need all the flexibility they can have — which includes a careful approach to re-signing Pau Gasol — if Anthony has any desires to join his long-time friend.
A high-dollar contract for a gunslinger off the bench doesn’t fit that bill.
In the Lakers’ third and final meeting with the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, Young scored his first 40-point game of the season. Finishing 15-of-26 from the field, including 6-of-13 from beyond the arc, Young was everything you wanted out of a Laker at Staples Center. The win wasn’t delivered, as LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard would chuckle if you asked them about the defensive pressure they dealt with. Combining for 65 points as a duo, Portland’s offensive motors held off the stylish on-court showing by Young.
“Welcome to the Player Haters Ball ….. we trying to hate, hate, hate, hate.”
That’s the memorable line Young issued on March 31 about the Lakers’ mentality for the remaining stretch.
While the meaning was in full effect last Sunday vs. Phoenix, “player haters ball” didn’t stop Portland from improving their record for the playoffs. It certainly didn’t matter for Wednesday’s matchup at Sacramento, a team also below 30 wins that will viewing the playoffs from home.
Nonetheless, Young couldn’t fill the anticipation in Sleep Train Arena, suffering a distasteful individual performance that ultimately gave the Kings a 107-102 victory.
Pressing on the offensive end, poor shot selection, and letting the referees physiologically banish Young from the game were all causes of concern. I know, I know … “how much concern can there be with only seven games left?”
You still have to view the big picture, and contemplate if this Swaggy character is one to bring back to play alongside Bryant in parts of the rotation, and under Mike D’Antoni, who hasn’t shown the proper discipline towards Young on the court.
In the clip above, Young brings out his inner “I’m gonna’ keep the rock and score myself” personality with shot selection many would label as horrendous. After the handoff from Kendall Marshall, a Robert Sacre screen is supposed to be the setup for Young to receive an open look. Rudy Gay, who scored a game-high 31 points, had Young on a leash all night and never fully lost the assignment.
With 6’8″ Gay right there basically attached to his hip, Young proceeds to take the midrange pull-up — one that requires him to alter the shot release due to the pressured contest.
Take a glance at how the rest of the Lakers on the court watched the play wind down:
Jodie Meeks never moved a muscle in the left corner, and the body language after Young’s shot resulted in an airball said all you needed to know about this team in April. With the current lineup being depicted — Young, Meeks, Sacre, Marshall, Wesley Johnson — there is no sense of an interior threat, so the team decides to settle entirely too often.
To the Lakers’ credit, Pau Gasol (vertigo) and Chris Kaman (sore left calf) were unable to suit up for Wednesday’s game, thus leaving D’Antoni with limited options. The ones he did have available involved small ball lineups, or Jordan Hill causing havoc in the paint. Sacre only serves defensive purposes, as his jump hook in the painted area fails to drop nine out of ten times.
Oh no, there was much more critical play from Young, who shot just 6-of-17 on Wednesday after setting a season-high against Portland.
Here’s one of the more head-scratching plays of the night, in which Young costs the Lakers a chance to trim the deficit to single digits heading into the fourth:
After a Kent Bazemore drive attempt to force a 2-for-1 predicament in the closing seconds of the third quarter, Sacre collects the offensive rebound and looks to reset the possession. Forgive Wesley Johnson for electing to dish the ball to Young, who stepped into the half court set in rhythm.
Jacking the triple — two feet behind the line — was a typical Swaggy P concept. The issue lies in the fact that Los Angeles had already blew the 2-for-1 opportunity, and running a reasonable, organized set to create a better look would’ve been ideal. You just can’t get “ideal” from a team full of misfits, who lack the coaching Los Angeles had four years ago. With 20 seconds on the shot clock and 25 on the game clock to end the third, Swaggy let it fly. Just like the franchise will ask it’s fans to let this season fly. Needless to say, Young didn’t drill it …. and the fans won’t forget this season.
Young finished with 17 points off the bench to go along with one assist in 30 minutes of action. You be the judge.
Twice in a seven day week, Nick Young can appear to be a franchise’s top scoring option. It’s during those times that he’s acting patient with the offense, letting the game come to him instead of vice versa, and not swinging his arm violently at the officials for missing calls.
It’s the other five days you have to worry about, which makes the answer unclear as to whether the Lakers should keep him off the market.
Shane Young is an NBA credentialed writer for 8 Points, 9 Seconds and HoopsHabit.com. For all Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, or general NBA coverage, follow @YoungNBA and @HoopsHabit on Twitter. You can contact Shane via email: [email protected]