There’s an old saying that you can’t go home again. Well, Nick Young is coming home to play for the Los Angeles Lakers this season to ultimately add some depth to their bench, a weakness for the Lakers last season.
Young played high school basketball at Cleveland High in Reseda —played against current teammate Jordan Farmer at San Fernando Valley rival Taft — and was a dominant player, but no one saw him as a future basketball pro.
Young averaged 27.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game while showing an amazing outside shot (46.8%) in 2004. He went on to attend USC and helped the Trojans make the Sweet 16 before losing to top-seed North Carolina in his junior season. He declared for the draft and was selected by the Washington Wizards with the 16th overall pick.
He will be playing for his fifth team in his seventh NBA season and has some serious motivation to revive his career after languishing on the bench with the Philadelphia 76ers last season.
“I just felt like I needed this opportunity,” Young told ESPN after signing with the Lakers in July. “Over the past couple of years, I feel like I’ve been getting disrespected a little bit out there and I feel with this stage the Lakers set, with the opportunity for playing time here, I can get my name back out there and get the respect I deserve. I did this for myself, really.”
Young will be crucial to the Lakers’ chances for early success this year. With Kobe Bryant healing from an Achilles injury, Young (a 6-foot-6 swingman) is all but a lock to be start at shooting guard or small forward, and they’ll need him to help replace some of Kobe’s scoring.
Pau Gasol and Steve Nash are proven veterans, but Young still has a lot to prove. He has earned a reputation for being just a scorer and that’s it. The book on Young is he doesn’t play defense, doesn’t pass or rebound. And Young knows this.
“To get out there on the floor, I need to do the other things too [defend and rebound],” said Young, who turns 28 in June. ” I feel I can do those things. I’m still learning. I ain’t reached my potential yet. There’s things I just need to pick up along the way.”
L.A. will need him to score and do it efficiently, something he hasn’t always done. He is just a career 42.7% shooter, but his 37.4% 3-point shooting is going to be a welcome addition.
Young has averaged 11.3 points over his career in just 23 minutes per game as a backup. His 36-per-minute averages (17.7) show he is capable of replacing some of Kobe’s production offensively, and that is something that is desperately needed since Kobe may be out until December or January.
Young’s career high was 17.4 points per game (converting 44.1% from the field and and 38.7% of his threes) in 2010-11 with the Wizards when he made a career-high 40 starts (played in 64 games). So, the potential is there for him to have a huge season.
Playing with his idol, Kobe, was also a big draw for Young to return to L.A.
“Growing up in L.A., Kobe was my idol, really,” Young said. “Just to have an opportunity to step on the court and pick his brain and see how he carries himself day-in and day-out, that’s going to be big for me.”
Laker fans are going to be praying Young can do his best Kobe impersonation on the court so that L.A. doesn’t have to rely on a couple aging veterans to carry the offensive workload. For Young, it’s a shot at redemption and to prove to the rest of the league he can still play the game and maybe earn himself one last big payday.
Darren Jacks is a regular contributor to OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @djroxalot.