The Laker team has suffered enough. Injuries and losing streaks can wear down one’s enthusiasm for the team for the fans. But, there’s one player that doesn’t waver. He can’t stop from smiling. He tried to interview like Kobe Bryant. He’s doing what he can on the floor. He plays with energy and fervor to give the Lakers a fighting chance. His name is Nick Young.
Jodie Meeks has been a model of consistency all season. If there was an award for most improved player on the team, it would easily be him. Not only is it tremendously difficult to improve ball-handling skills at the NBA level, it’s another to implement it so effectively. He has more total layups halfway through this season than he has had all last season. Despite multiple point guard changes, his 3-point percentage is at a 39.3% clip. When Steve Blake was at the helm, it hovered around 45%. He keeps his energy up, and his name should be mentioned, because he worked his tail off and it shows on the basketball court.
Nick Young has become the team’s #1 option off of the bench. When the season started, he had a false start of his own. His field goal percentage was below 40%. After two games, it was actually at 26.3%. He struggled to find himself within the offensive scheme. This is critical, considering Pau Gasol demands isolation plays on the low block. Nick Young wasn’t used to playing alongside an inside presence. Coming off the bench ended up a blessing in disguise. He began to run a few curls. He ran some pick-and-roll situations. He ran some isolation situations from 20′. His numbers across the board improved. He was more confident with his shooting and was able to get a few isolation looks of his own.
Now, he’s the leading scorer at 17.1 points per game. His field goal percentage is 43%, which isn’t that stellar, but he is a streaky shooter. But when he’s on, the game is entertaining, the team plays with more energy, and the Lakers put up a strong fight. Of the past four games, sans the Phoenix Suns game, he’s had outbursts of 28, 29, and 31 points respectively. He’s been shooting 12 of 21 behind the 3-point arc and you know there’s a few 4-point plays somewhere in there. Most importantly, all of those games have been hotly contested until the very end. Of the past 18 games, he scored over 20 points in 12 of them. Through December he averaged 19.3 points per game. Through January, he’s averaging 19.1 points per game. More importantly, he has been playing surprisingly solid defense and while some of his shots are ill-advised, there’s nothing about his shot selection that says he’s selfish. He’s not forcing as many shots as he used to in years past. He’s progressing as a Laker player. Considering the Lakers situation, there is rarely a better outcome for Laker fans.
He seems truly happy as a Laker. Swaggy-P has played some Swaggy-D while hitting a few Swaggy-3’s. Who would have ever thought that? Not me. Now, he has won us over as Laker fans.