There Los Angeles Lakers are receiving a fair share of praise. It is tepid, but it does exist. Most of the praise is rightfully going to a billion different reasons, but one of the most popular is the the play of Nick Young.
As the cool kids call him, Swaggy P is playing the best basketball of his career. The counting stats don’t really matter as much as his efficiency numbers and shot-selection have, but the world’s most famous former pop star boyfriend is averaging 14.1 points per game in only 24 minutes of action per evening.
More importantly, he’s shooting 46 percent from the floor and 42 percent from beyond the arc. His efficiency numbers going up has little to do with him — at the age of 31 — all of a sudden becoming a better shooter, as it does with him having learned to play within himself–at least for now.
Young has also improved his improved effort on defense. While some people are crediting Walton as some sort of Swaggy P-whisperer (who knew the world would ever need one), most of the credit should actually go to the player for actually playing defense for the first time in his professional career.
All of those are net positives–sincere, earned and warranted reasons to believe Nick Young has turned a corner of sorts.
His shot-selection, choices with the ball in his hands, defense, etc., have all improved. He, as a player, has seemingly improved.
Okay. Now that we have all the caveats out of the way, let’s discuss something we should probably acknowledge while Swaggy P fans’ tummies are all tingly on the insides from the love bestowed on him by #NBATwitter and random humans alike.
This new version of Young — the one we just praised — isn’t historically who he is.
Generally speaking, people don’t magically change the very fabric of who they are in their early thirties. Yes, they can make some tweaks and adjustments, but something as drastic as this refined transformation of Nick Young rarely happens, then stays happening.
To be clearer than Camp Crystal Lake, that doesn’t mean it never happens or is impossible. It simply means that it barely ever does.
Currently sitting at 9-9, the Lakers have yet to face any adversity. Sure, batting .500 isn’t the greatest thing in the world in the NBA, but Los Angeles is exceeding expectations. Because of that, there’s no reason for anyone on the roster to panic, alter strategy, or differ from any of Walton’s schematics.
For now, everyone has bought in. Hell, maybe they will continue to do so, but some caution before we begin penciling in the Lakers for the No. 8 seed out West.
What happens when there’s a losing streak or a relatively long injury to an important player? Do all the players — specifically, our friend Nick Young — continue to trust the, uh, process?
It is easy for something new, shiny, and reported to be credibly smart (here being Walton) to get the benefit of the doubt from other people (here being Young), especially when the start to that new, shiny thing’s era is going more smoothly than a baby’s rear. But when that shine begins to wear off, and it becomes less new, then what?
To put it more bluntly: When/if the Lakers face any form of actual adversity, will Swaggy McSwaggmaster P continue to be this reformed player we have witnessed through 18 games?
I ask out of sincere curiosity, as nine other NBA seasons tells us Young is who he has been, and even though this awesome version of the man has been doing swell sorts of things, habits and tendencies are hard to break, and reverting to true form is almost always easy to do when things aren’t going a person’s way.
The Lakers have surpassed early-season expectations at this point because Walton has been able to not only get everyone to buy in but to play a balanced brand of basketball.
Each talent hinges on the other, sharing minutes and shot attempts nearly equally, with every moving part needing the other to play its role in order for the others to function. It is a never ending cycle of trust needed, players being “in” on the system, and it repeating itself game after game.
All it will take for that to shatter is one of those gyrating parts to stop moving in the direction pointed. Not to be a wholesale jerk about it, if we were betting folks, who would your money be on to be the first to fall out of line?
Furthermore, would anyone be shocked to see it happen?