Time Is Running Out For Nick Young

If it is the summer season then it is the Drew League season and it is the Nick Young in the spotlight season as he uses the league as his own personal All-Star showcase, highlighting a series of dunks and crossovers and last second shots in front of a friendly, if not ecstatic, Compton, California crowd.

There is no better advertisement for Nick Young’s talent and Nick Young’s weaknesses than the Drew League. He loves to score and he loves to show off his moves and he loves to be the center of attention. There is an irony here. What makes Young so great in the Drew League is what makes him so terrible in the NBA, something the Lakers are fully aware of as they tried to move Young this summer but couldn’t. Every G.M. is aware that Nick Young is a fun-loving comdey act who uses the NBA as his personal platform for entertainment. Young is hardly invested in taking care of the small details necessary to win and he often pouts when things are not going his way.

Nick Young’s numbers last year were morose. 36% on two points shots. .09% on shots 3-10 feet. 31% on shots 10-16 feet. 35% on long 2’s. Shooting is the one thing Young does well and he couldn’t make 4 out of 10 shots from anywhere on the floor.

Two summers ago, the Lakers signed Nick Young to a bad contract. There is no opt-out and they are on the hook for three more years. The only takers will be teams looking to get rid of their own bad contracts and so the Lakers net return will be another team’s garbage so what’s the point? In a twisted way Nick Young serves a purpose for a team with a group of talented but inexperienced young players: he is the whipping boy. Byron Scott will use Nick Young as an example of inattention to defense, and laziness, and lack of focus, and not studying film and getting beat because his mind was preoccupied.

When the Lakers drafted Anthony Brown in the second round and then quickly signed him to a two year deal with an option for the third year it was a message. Brown, a four year player from Stanford, is a 6-6, three point shooting small forward with deep range, the same position with the same skill as Young, and a Stanford education in his back pocket. And one other thing. Brown can defend. His best moments in the Vegas Summer League, what didn’t show up in the box score, was what he did on defense. He has good lateral quickness, nice footwork for a young player, desire, plus he’s physical and he plays defense with a toughness Young lacks.

Training camp will be a referendum on Young because if Anthony Brown outperforms Young in effort and intellect and has the ability to knock down open looks, he has the opportunity to take the back up small forward job away from Young.

Nick Young is pretty easy to guard since he doesn’t make contested shots and he isn’t a crafty scorer who uses a variety of head fakes and dribbles to confuse his defender. He is a mediocre dribbler who holds the ball too long and he doesn’t have an innate talent for the rhythm of possessions. He doesn’t like contact and rarely takes the ball to the hole for the sole purpose of getting to the line. He lacks mental toughness. When he doesn’t get a call he quits for a few seconds before he remembers the game is still going on and he has to run down the court on defense.

From the looks of things the Lakers are following the trend and moving towards a three guard starting line-up shifting Kobe Bryant to small forward as D’angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson occupy the backcourt. The Lakers will have three ball handlers and three scorers but not much defense to speak of on the perimter. It makes Anthony Brown attractive. He can spell Kobe and guard a shooter and make the occassional three which is more than Nick Young can do with Byron Scott constantly on him like a prison guard.

Nick Young’s best Lakers year was when he played for Mike D’antoni. He had career highs in points scored, steals, offensive rebounds, assists, field goals and field goal attempts with free rein to do whatever he wanted without fear of punishment. On the opposite coaching spectrum, Byron Scott rewards defense and hard work and what you do off-ball and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about entertainment, something that is high on Nick Young’s motivational list. Scott wants a player who wants to rebound and set screens and pass the ball. Scott wants what every Nick Young coach wants but all (except D’antoni) have been left exasperated.

There was a pre-game moment last year when Nick Young was entertaining the media with a story about dolphins and it was one of the light moments that Nick Young loves with the assembled writers surrounding him, hanging on his every word. Byron Scott entered the room, gave Young the Death Stare and then announced Young was being fined for lateness. No longer smiling, Young exhaled, like cold water was splashed on his face.

It is July and Nick Young is entitled to have a good time in front of the Compton crowds. But the question is, when the Drew League is done and he has to really work on parts of his game that he has never developed, what then? What happens in October, in training camp? What happens when the season starts? Is Young poised to be the third small forward in the rotation, on the bench for long stretches of games while a rookie who cares about basketball and not Hollywood replaces him?


photo via Wikipedia.org