With the camera lights shining on Nick Young after Tuesday’s practice, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton found an opportunity to poke some fun at ‘Swaggy P’ (or rather, ‘Uncle P,’ to the rookies).
After twenty minutes of answering his own questions from reporters, then a few minutes of chatting with the writers after the cameras were off, Walton then cruised over to interrupt Young’s media session.
“Everything I said today about how good he’s been playing was not true in practice today,” Walton attempted to convey with a straight face. “He was awful in practice today but throughout camp…”
Young followed with his signature smile, infectious laugh and agreed: “It was just one of them days for me.”
It’s this type of player-coach relationship, that seems to bring out the best in Young.
“Having a coach that has your back and helping you out, helps a lot,” Young said Tuesday. “He’s (Walton) been positive to everybody. The energy, the vibe is great, can’t help but go out there and want to do the right thing and have fun.”
Moments before the entertaining interjection, Walton was singing Young’s praises, as he has since the start of training camp, applauding him for his perimeter defense, overall effort, playmaking and scoring.
“Nick’s been great,” Walton said after Tuesday’s practice. “He’s given multiple effort plays, that as a coach you love to see, and he’s even playmaking. He’s getting in the lane and he’s collapsing, dropping it off to bigs for easy layups, so I’m very impressed with Nick.”
How quickly things have changed since last season and this summer, where Young had trouble getting playing time or finding a rhythm and rumors circled about whether he would remain in the purple and gold this season. Now, because of Young’s recent play, Walton is facing an even tougher decision in terms of solidifying spots in the rotation.
Young credits the free-flowing offense, which he says enables everyone to have their own opportunities, for a lot of his recent success.
“I think it’s just the offense,” Young said of what’s different this season. “Last year, the offense was a lot different. First year, he (former head coach Byron Scott) didn’t want us to shoot three-pointers. So, this year it’s a little more free flowing…Everybody is sharing the ball. Everybody gets an opportunity to shoot, score and that’s all you can ask for.”
After finding himself in the NBA headlines for all the wrong reasons last season and having to deal with his own personal struggles on and off the basketball court, Young devoted his summer to improving his game. Heading into training camp, Young wanted to showcase all the work he put in, not only to prove himself to the doubters (and there were plenty), but feeling like he had something to prove to himself.
“Coming in to camp, I was just thinking, I put in a lot of work this summer and I just want to show it off.”
Young continued about his motivations, “Just playing time, and proving a lot of people wrong, proving things to myself too.”
Third-year forward Julius Randle has always had Young’s back. Despite all the backlash Young received after the Iggy Azalea/D’Angelo Russell drama, those close to Young, have nothing but positive things to say about the person Young is, on and off the court. His friends are just happy to have him back.
“Nick is one of the greatest guys, one of the greatest teammates I’ve ever had,” Randle said. “He’s just not all about himself. He cares about his teammates, cares about his friends. I’m happy to see him up. I was definitely in his corner and I think he can be great for this team.”