In the second quarter of a one point game, with about 7 minutes to play till the half, Nick Young of the Los Angeles Lakers leaks out after a Phoenix Suns’ made basket and gets ahead of the defense for what looks like an easy dunk. To prevent the easy basket Suns’ rookie Alex Len commits a hard foul on Nick Young while he is in full flight and defenseless in the air; the vicious forearm strike to Young’s head knocks him to the floor.
Understandably, Young reacts like any player that had just been wacked across the head while in a precarious position and thrown to the floor, with rage. Young gets up quickly and goes after the perpetrator Len but is blocked by a wall of his Suns’ teammates like an offensive line protecting a quarterback. Young, still in the midst of rage and in a defensive stance with a crowd of Suns players surrounding him, takes a swing at Goran Dragic of the Suns.
Kurt Rambis and one of the officials is able to get a hold of the fuming Young and pull him away from the skirmish, detaining him by the Lakers’ bench which was in close proximity.
After the incident, the question begging to be asked was where were Young’s teammates? Young had just been the victim of a cheap and hard forearm clubbing to the head by a player on the opposing team and he stood there surrounded by a crowd of white Suns’ jerseys and nothing else. Young stood alone.
As you can see by the video, four of Young’s Lakers “teammates” (term is used loosely) that were on the floor at the time were Ryan Kelly, Chris Kaman, Jodie Meeks and Kendall Marshall.
Ryan Kelly was the nearest to the start of the action. As Young begins his aggressive move towards Len then backs up to get in his defensive stance, Kelly drifts back out of harm’s way. Kelly makes no attempt to cut through the crowd of Suns and assist Young.
Chris Kaman is a little farther back but walks with the same level of urgency that Kelly displayed. Kaman remained in the outskirts of the ruckus, but, once Young was safely corralled by the Lakers bench, Kaman does his part in protecting his teammate by briefly brushing his hand onto Len’s chest. Way to go Kaman, that will show Len to not take out one of your own.
Take a good look at the video, Jodie Meeks and Kendall Marshall do not react at all. Their teammate just knocked down and in the middle of what could be a fight where he is surrounded and outnumbered, yet Marshall and Meeks cant even muster up enough concern to even slightly pick their pace of their already gingerly stroll to the action.
I count three Lakers on the periphery on this shot, one (Marshall) with his hands on his hips, while Young is still in full on fight mode and surrounded.
Let’s count the Suns in the frame, all five including the perp, Alex Len. This shot was when Young was finally pulled away, still Marshall’s hands rest comfortably on his hips.
Let’s compare this to another moment where a player is taken out and see how his teammates respond. We’ll use the cross town rival Los Angeles Clippers footage of Blake Griffin being taken out by Jason Smith of New Orleans.
Do you see the stark difference in Blake Griffin’s teammates reaction? Immediately after the foul Randy Foye sprints into the action with Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan charging hard right behind him. Not shown in the video are all three of the aforementioned players going after Jason Smith, putting fingers in his face and jawing at him.
Blake Griffin’s teammates had his back. Nick Young’s did not.
Following the game, Young spoke about the incident and his teammate’s response:
“What I’m mad about is it was 1-on-5, I felt like,” Young said. “If somebody would have got in the middle, everything wouldn’t have escalated that much.”
Instead, Young took a swing at Goran Dragic, was ejected from last night’s game and will likely be suspended for another game.
Whether you agree with Young’s response is irrelevant. As a teammate you have the responsibility to protect and have the back of one of your own. It is part of being a team and that’s prevalent at any level of team sports. In that exact moment that Young hit that floor every player needed to run to Young’s side, if for nothing else to merely stand next to him, protect him from the other players that surrounded him and himself. Except those four teammates did nothing. They let Young to fend for himself.
What seems inconsequential in an already lost season, the Lakers lost the game to the Suns, 121-114. It was their 6th loss in a row and 12th loss in their last 13 games. The Lakers are now just a game and a half ahead of Utah Jazz who are in last place in the Western Conference.
Last night’s loss, the string of recent losses and disappointing season thus far pales in comparison to the immensely embarrassing display by Young’s teammates. Last night they officially hit rock bottom, not because they were blown out of another game, but because they lost their understanding of what it means to be a team.
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