Before Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers head coach Luke Walton made mention that he was considering a change to the starting lineup. Ultimately he decided on taking veteran Nick Young out of the starting lineup in place of David Nwaba.
Young has enjoyed a resurgent season and is easily the Lakers’ best outside shooter, but Walton wanted to take a longer look at guys like Nwaba and Tyler Ennis as the season winds down. For his part, Young said he completely understands the move via Mark Medina of the OC Register:
“It’s that time of year you want to check out the young guys and evaluate them,” Young said. “I understand that. It’s nothing personal.”
While it is mostly understood that the move to bench Young was about development, Walton still made it a point to note how great Young has been this season:
“It’s important the message is out there that Nick has been one of our best two players all year long,” Walton said after seeing Young average 13.4 points on 43.4 percent shooting in 25.9 minutes this season. “I don’t want anyone to look at this as if he’s getting benched. But he obviously wants to play, but understands where we’re at and what we need to do. So I would expect him to be the same joyful Nick that is supporting his teammates and having fun.”
Young was definitely himself on Sunday even though he didn’t touch the floor as he could be seen cheering on his young teammates as they fought to the end in a 118-116 loss to the Sixers. The Lakers missed Young’s shooting as they made only four of 20 shots from three-point range.
Young joins Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov as veterans who have moved from the starting lineup to the bench and out of the rotation as a whole. What has helped is that Walton has been very open about everything with his players which makes it at least a little easier. Of course Young would prefer to be on the court, but he understands the process going forward is about the youth and he is fully on board with that.