LOS ANGELES — Since he was moved to the bench in the fourth game of the year, Nick Young has taken full advantage of the opportunity in his new role.
As a Los Angeles Lakers reserve, he is now averaging 17.1 points per game after his season-high 21-point performance in the team’s 102-95 win over the Golden State Warriors. And heading into the game, Young was the NBA’s fourth-highest scoring reserve among players who have participated in multiple games off the bench this season.
“It takes time. It’s the beginning of the year, you get more comfortable,” Young said. “Everyone started feeling their role on the team. I can’t ask for more.”
The 28-year old has been a model of consistency as he has scored in double figures in nine of the 10 games he has come off the bench in this season. It appears that he is beginning to relish in the role, but head coach Mike D’Antoni believes it’s the effort that Young is putting on the defensive end of the floor that is making the difference.
“It’s great, he has a personality, he’s fun and he’s always laughing, he’s always up,” D’Antoni said after Friday’s game. “Plus he’s playing defense, which even makes his jokes a little funnier. He’s concentrated, has a lot of energy. (He) always can score the ball and he did it tonight, one three he made a stop on the slide, that was huge.”
Pau Gasol after the win on Friday talked about the importance of Young remaining confident in abilities in order to continue his high level of play.
“He is unique and definitely special,” Gasol said. “He’s a guy who feeds off his own confidence. When he feels good about himself, he becomes a very effective player and a great scorer. Tonight he got it going and he hit some big shots. H’s a very skilled offensive player. He definitely has the personality. You have to embrace it.”
Young knows that he must give his team everything he’s got every night.
“(I’m) just trying to stay in the game,” Young said. “That’s what they want and I’m going to try to give them everything they want.”
The seven-year veteran has been a big part of the Lakers’ bench that is the highest scoring in the league at 46.7 points per game and has outscored the opposition’s second unit 12 times in 13 games this season.
Young’s scoring may be even more important once Kobe Bryant makes his return from his surgically-repaired left Achilles tendon, as Bryant may not be able to provide the team with the same amount of scoring as he did prior to the injury. It is also not too far of a stretch to say that the 35-year-old will struggle early on in his return as he is only seven months removed from tearing his Achilles and is up in age.
With that said, the Lakers may lean on Young’s scoring ability as the 15-time All-Star works his way back into to form. Young knows that he must provide the Lakers with a consistent scoring punch off the bench in order this Lakers’ team to be as successful as possible.
“I’m playing with energy. That’s all. Playing with energy and trying to have fun out there and get some dunks,” Young said. “When you get steals, somebody gets an easy bucket and a highlight reel. There’s nothing like a highlight reel in L.A.”
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