Only three games into the season, Nick Young was told to grab a seat. He wasn’t a starter anymore. He was a bench player. Young, to his credit, took it on the chin. Prior to the game, Young appeared in the Los Angeles Lakers' locker room during the media time. He didn’t hide, but he was not entirely begging for media attention either.
When asked questions, he answered.
“It’ll just give me a chance to see how the game is going—game flow,” Young tried to be positive about the relegation from starter to bench player.
“It’s too early to start some controversy,” Young said. “I’m just going with the flow.”
His personality and smile had not been broken by the demotion.
“No bad blood. I’m not that…what’s that ice skater lady?” He was referring to Tonya Harding, the notorious figure skater who arranged to have her competition’s leg broken.
Young is not that guy. Instead, he offered anyone within earshot a copy of the new Call of Duty video game. Young also handed out copies to his teammates before Sunday's game against the Atlanta Hawks. The drop in minutes had seemingly not affected Young's personality off the court.
On the court, Young was shooting 27 percent as a starter through the first three games of the season. On Sunday evening, he shot 56 percent and padded the scoreboard with a 13-point contribution. Obviously, Young was not unfamiliar with playing off the bench.
Young primarily featured off the bench in Philadelphia. In 24 minutes, he averaged nearly 11 points on 41 percent shooting during the 2012-13 season. Of his 59 appearances last season, Young only started 17 games for the 76ers.
After the game, Triple Threat visited Young in the Lakers’ locker room and asked if he felt more comfortable feeling the flow of the game from the bench before joining it.
“The flow of the game is different,” Young said about coming in as a reserve. Then, he laughed and said “I’m shooting for sixth man of the year now.”
Was Young comfortable coming off the bench due to his prior success in the role?
“It’s something I’ve been used to for a while, but I don’t want to get comfortable,” Young responded. “I’m used to it.”
Before relegating Young to the bench permanently, it bears to keep in mind that the former University of Southern California Trojan performed at his highest level as a starter last season. The LA-native scored 29 points against the Los Angeles Clippers, and he scored 30 points against the Lakers. Both performances featured Young starting for the Philadelphia 76ers, so Young can score as a starter.
One strong argument against Young’s return to the starting five is defense. One of the primary reasons Young lost his spot was not his shooting slump; it was his poor defensive positioning. Xavier Henry, his replacement in the starting lineup, plays stellar defense, and Lakers’ coach Mike D’Antoni wasn’t shy about saying so.
“I think Xavier [Henry] is a better defender,” D’Antoni stated plainly before Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks.
Although the shooting slump helped D’Antoni’s hand, defense is the real reason Young expects to stay on the bench.