As the Los Angeles Lakers search for answers, hoping for light at the end of their crippled roster and five games under .500 record, one Laker looks to keep the spirits alive. He’s the Lakers leading scorer, having scored in double figures in 17 consecutive games, knocking down 20 or more points in six of their last eight. But his contributions coming off the bench don’t measure up to just how vital Nick “Swaggy P” Young has been to this beaten down Lakers squad.
Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni recently praised Young for the energy he’s been able to impart on this team. D’Antoni referred to him as a “joy to coach” after the Lakers win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in December, saying he could not ask for “a better player, human being and teammate.” Through the Lakers five-game losing streak, Young’s frustrations have slowly begun to rear their head in post-game interviews, but he has not allowed those frustrations to permeate the team. Before the Lakers played the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, teammate Shawne Williams said, “You can’t do anything but smile when you see Swaggy,” and that perception is exactly how Young hopes his teammates see him.
“Somehow I gotta stay positive and get my teammates positive and everybody to just still enjoy the game of basketball,” Young said after Lakers practice on Monday. “When I come to the gym each day I know I gotta bring that energy. I can’t be down because it’s contagious. If I come in with attitude, everybody probably just gunna have a bad day, so I just try to come in, try to get everybody going.”
And Young definitely gets everybody going. D’Antoni says even at shootaround, Young is “dunking and yelling at assistant coaches and it gets everybody up.” Not everybody, though, has the attitude of Nick Young and some teammates wear their negative emotions on their sleeve. Young has made it his job to turn those attitudes around.
After practice on Monday, Chris Kaman sauntered by Young with his head down and the hood on his jacket pulled over his head. Without skipping a beat, Young put his chats with the media on hold and called out to Kaman to make sure he was alright. After not hearing a response, Young called out again (this time with a funny nickname – Lurch) until he could get a smile out of the big man. He succeeded.
Young can’t do anything to take back the Lakers five-game losing streak, but he can continue to be the glue that keeps this team together while everything seems to be falling apart.
“Losing is frustrating but at the end of the day, we all, we got. We can’t be mad at each other. We need each other more than anything”
Smiling in a Lakers uniform while sporting a losing record hasn’t fared so well in the past (cue Dwight Howard nightmares), but there’s something different about Young. His attitude gives the team a sense of unity and Lakers fans a glimmer of hope.
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