The Lakers spent all off-season trying to dump Nick Young but found the market drier than a July desert because really, it’s Nick Young. He’s an entertainer more than he’s a basketball player, caring more about the lights and flash and Twitter beefs than actual basketball plays. This is the part of the story in which the Lakers, who signed Young as a filler until they could get serious about the NBA again, are suffering from their own negligence. It is as Shakespeare once noted: the Lakers are “hoisted by their own petard.” They made this Nick Young bed. Now they have to lie in it and live with it while the rest of the league smirks at their confusion.
The unraveling of Nick Young was a predictable circumstance. Young is a life of the party, happy go lucky, want to have fun personality and his coach is a tough as nails, do it my way hard ass. The collision course was inevitable and it played itself out with the usually affable Young driven to periods of moroseness as he heard it from all sides.
Byron Scott was pissed that Young wasn’t passionate enough about the game off the court and that he was lazy and restless on the court. Fans, who initially embraced the local kid who grew up in South Central, were pissed at how Young would celebrate his own meager displays of excellence in the midst of a 21 win season. Look broken, the fans demanded of him. Critics pounded Young for his aggressive nonchalance, for going through the motions, for his sullenness and shot selection. When Young couldn’t do the one thing he was being paid to do- shoot the ball- it all took a turn for the worse.
When Young was in Philadelphia playing for Doug Collins, he found himself on the outside looking in as Collins demanded things of Young that Young is allergic to: defense, ball movement, team play. Collins benched Young towards the end of the season and the experience was a nightmare Young thought he’d never have to revisit again. And then the 2014-15 season happened to Young.
He needed surgery in training camp when he collided with Kobe Bryant and that was his seasonal highlight. He shot 36%. He took enough shots-12- he just couldn’t make any. He shot .09% on shots in the 3-10 foot range, 31% on shots 10-16 feet. His assist percentage was 6.9%, the lowest it had been in three years, meaning what he was doing was just jacking up shots- missing- and not caring that he had teammates.
Stabbing your career into shreds and doing it on the East Coast is one thing. But homegrown means homegrown. People wanted to love Nick Young. His story was so black L.A., growing up in South Central, ducking and hiding from gang influence, going to high school in the Valley, a murdered brother, a family in grief, going to USC and then the NBA lottery ticket. Los Angeles is a NBA town. But, Nick Young ruined it last year not because he was such a god-awful shooter whose shot selection was atrocious as he was trying to hang on to some identity he never really had, but he damaged his reputation by his reluctance. He wasn’t a team player. He didn’t conform to Scott’s dictatorial whims. He developed a narcissist’s identity. He was having a bad year and it infected everything because he (thought) he was everything.
On Monday, during Media Day, Nick Young declared he wasn’t Swaggy P anymore, he was Nicholas. It gave certain people hope that he had conformed to adulthood, that last year had affected him and dragged him by the neck into something he had long avoided: maturity. I took it as one of those Nick Young I need the spotlight on me things because at the end of the day you can call yourself a cat on a hot tin roof but what people remember was you couldn’t make shots, you sulked, you celebrated when it was inappropriate, you let people down.
As expected, Young backtracked on his Nicholas edict.
“I’m still Swaggy P. I don’t like being Nicholas. You know I’m the man when it’s all said and done. I’m just a cool guy. It’s just in my DNA.”
Yes, he’s a cool guy with tons of followers and a basketball reputation of less is not more. He can’t make contested shots, he doesn’t drive in the lane and pass to the open man, he doesn’t get to the line on a regular basis, he celebrates every good play he makes and pouts on every bad play, he gets an “F” in the art of dribbling, he holds the ball too long and his worse basketball crime is he lacks mental toughness and craves attention. But he’s cool, so there is that.
The detritus of the NBA, the flash, the lights, the colors, the media attention, the crowds, the energy is a Nick Young thing. He brings that with him in the summer and the Drew League where he captivates the Compton crowds over and over. But summer is not here. Summer is over. Someone needs to remind Nick Young of that small detail. Or is it Nicholas?
photo via Wikimedia.org