Since getting a one-game suspension, Nick Young has been playing with greater intensity and efficiency. Over his last two games, Young has scored 60 points.
Young has been a consistent performer for the bulk of the season, and he leads the Lakers with 17.1 points per game despite coming off the bench. However, his focus and production has hit new heights in recent games. Even more impressive than the point totals, the former USC Trojan is matching his high production with increased efficiency.
Young scored 29 points on 13 field goal attempts against the Toronto Raptors. Against the Chicago Bulls, Young went for 31 point on 23 shot attempts. To highlight the shooter’s recent hot stroke, one needs only analyze Young’s free throw percentage.
The 28-year-old has only missed four of the 47 free throw he has attemped in 2014. For the month, he’s shooting 91.5 percent from the free throw line. In Monday’s loss, Young was fouled late in regulation and hit three clutch free throws to take the game into overtime.
“I went to the line thinking, ‘OK, this is where big players step up,’” Young said after the game on Monday. “That’s what I was trying to do.”
Young’s outburst and subsequent suspension can be viewed as a turning point, but the LA native was already hitting stride before the fight in Phoenix. Prior to getting ejected, Young had nine points in only 11 minutes. In the game prior, Young poured in 28 points on 16 shot attempts.
He has scored 25 or more points in four of the last five complete games he has played. His shot selection has been questionable, but his execution and results are unapproachable--reminding reporters and fans of another shooter who made a habit of taking and making ill-advised shots.
“Swag Mamba? Nah. Nah. I’m Swaggy P, baby,” Young responded when the possible nickname was floated to him. “Can’t be no Mamba. I don’t want to be a snake. I like the flash of the jewelry. I’m a flashy man.”
Like most basketball players growing up in LA, Young grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant. Young's recent play has received deserved comparisons to the Black Mamba, but Young is humbly avoiding making the comparison.
“I can’t play like Kobe, man,” Young said. “There’s only one Kobe.”