Despite the losing record last season, things were actually fun for a while at the start of the season. The Lakers were 10-9 to start, and a large part of that success was due to Young’s play off the bench.
Following that stretch, Kobe Bryant returned from injury for six games, and the Lakers went 2-4 while trying to adjust to their superstar player returning. Bryant, for his part, tried to implement himself into the team by not taking over too much of the offense (13.8 points) and trying to facilitate for others (6.3 assists), as the team was playing relatively well without him.
Kobe went down again after those six games and plenty of other players did too, while the Lakers ended up with a 27-55 record and missed the playoffs.
The Lakers fizzled out as the team had held it down for the Black Mamba until he returned in hopes that he’d give them a boost and a shot at the playoffs after his return, but simply couldn’t sustain that level of play following his subsequent injury.
Young, however, took on a bigger role and became the team’s leading scorer despite the team’s struggles.
Prior to Bryant returning, Young was averaging 14.2 points. With Bryant playing alongside of him for those six games, he put up 17.2 points per game, and eventually ended the season averaging 17.9 points.
He was a much needed bright spot for the Lakers in a down season.
When he came over in free agency prior to the season, I was unsure of whether he’d help or hurt the team. I saw him as a flashy player who just cared about scoring the ball. However, he showed much more than that.
As mentioned, he averaged 17.9 points (his highest scoring average), but also held a PER of 16.0, which was also his highest since entering the league in 2007. Another career-high for Swaggy was his eFG% which was at 51.1 percent.
Additionally, although he’s not known as defender around the league, he certainly put forth the effort and played with passion in each and every game.
He may have been a joker off the court, but he competed seriously when on the court — and simultaneously provided a flair that kept Lakers fans entertained, to an extent.
In the locker room, he was the guy that kept everyone loose and maintained a positive attitude throughout an extremely difficult season.
Prior to this season, I wrote how the Lakers needed Young to have a big season, as he is essentially the team’s second-best player.
That still holds true today, and his return is the last chance for the Lakers to try and turn this thing around a little bit.
No, Swaggy P is not a superstar and is not going to miraculously propel this team to the playoffs.
What he is, however, is a player who can get his own shot and create offense for the team in a hurry. He’s not going to drop a bunch of dimes, but he poses a threat to opposing teams’ defenses in a number of ways, which essentially alleviates some of the offensive pressure placed on his teammates.
He can knock down the long ball, but can also penetrate at times and can certainly draw multiple defenders to him when he handles the ball. This will certainly take some of the pressure off of Kobe Bryant.
Conversely, he doesn’t need to handle the ball in order to score. Last season, 47.6 percent of his two-point field goals were assisted, and 79.3 percent of his three-pointers were as well.
This is paramount because the ball is still going to be in Kobe’s hands the majority of the time. Whereas Young can score with the ball in his hands and take pressure off of Kobe, he is more than comfortable playing off-ball as well and as long as he maintains his aggressiveness, Kobe will likely look to get him the ball.
Despite the hot topic of whether Kobe is taking too many shots or willing to pass to his teammates or not, he had this to say, via Lakers Nation’s Serena Winters:
Kobe: “I’m more than willing to sit back. If you think I want to shoot as many times or be as aggressive at 36, you’re freaking crazy.”
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) November 17, 2014
Nick Young is not the kind of sidekick Kobe’s accustomed to playing alongside, and is certainly not of the same caliber of past teammates such as Shaquille O’Neal or Pau Gasol. He is, however, a player that Kobe can count on to be aggressive and consistently provide offense. Whereas the Lakers currently have no idea who will be the second scoring option on a nightly basis, Young’s return will at least provide an answer to that. Additionally, unlike most players on this team, he’s smack dab in the middle of his prime at 29 years of age.
The return of Swaggy P will give the team a player who can carry an offense at times, and will partially fill one of the voids on this team.
With Steve Nash done for the season, the other void he’ll help fill is the chemistry aspect. The Lakers need a guy on the court who can keep the team positive and also add some fun out there, and Swaggy P can certainly deliver in that department.
Swaggy, with his on-court celebrations and head nods, will provide some refreshment for not only his team, but the fans as well.
The Lakers are currently 1-9 and on pace to have their worst season in franchise history. The excitement that came before the season, with hopes of a healthy Steve Nash and a developing rookie talent in Julius Randle, is gone after the two aforementioned players were ruled out for the season following injuries.
The one hope the Lakers have to turn things around a little bit rests on the return of their second-best player: Nick Young.
Young will return in Atlanta against the Hawks tonight and then make his encore appearance Wednesday night in Houston against the Rockets. The Lakers will play the Mavericks in Dallas on Friday night, and then return home on Sunday to face the Denver Nuggets.
Hopefully, when Swaggy P makes his Staples Center debut on Sunday, he and the Lakers will give the fans something to cheer about.[divide]
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