Nick Young’s shocking reemergence as not just a useful role player, but once again a positive personality around the team has been arguably the biggest story of the Los Angeles' Lakers preseason. Young’s play has catapulted him from daily "when will he be cut" watch, back to nearly being as much of a fan favorite as he was during his first year in purple and gold.
According to Julius Randle, he's even more beloved by the locker room.
“Nick is one of the greatest guys and greatest teammates I ever had,” Randle told Mark Medina of the Orange County Register. “He’s not all about himself. He cares about his teammates and cares about his friends. I’m happy to see him up and I was definitely in his corner. I think he can be great for our team.”
Again, it can't be understated how surprising, unlikely, and helpful this turnaround has been for Young and the Lakers organization. Having to waive Young and pay him money to not play for their team — while still carrying his contract on their cap — is an infinitely less desirable outcome than him defying all logic and reason to become a useful role player for the team.
Young and Russell have said they're good, and so far there have been no (reported) issues in the locker room. Young has rediscovered not just his game, but the ebullience that had always characterized his on court demeanor prior to the last two years while he struggled so mightily.
One part of Young's return to prominence is not just the more player-friendly nature of the new coaching staff, but how that staff is utilizing him on the floor. In addition to inspiring him to give far superior defensive effort than he demonstrated the last two seasons, Walton and company have gotten Young to trim the fat from his game.
Instead of dribbling around wildly trying to create for himself, Young has been getting sprung upon by tireless screening from the Lakers’ big men. The result? A team-high 74.6 true shooting percentage while canning a hotter-than-hell-and-in-almost-no-way-sustainable 56 percent of his threes. That last part has probably been the biggest key to his offensive resurgence, and it’s fair to say Young agrees:
Nick Young saying how Walton's offense is different than Byron's: "1st year he didn't want us to shoot 3's."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) October 18, 2016
Young has played well enough, and almost more importantly as Randle notes, been a positive enough teammate, that it would no longer get someone banned from social media as spam to suggest he should start at shooting guard on opening night.
Even if he doesn’t end up starting, Young’s production is found money from a player whose contract appeared to be a multi-million dollar bonfire, and a welcome dose of good luck for a franchise that’s had so much of the bad variety over the last few years.
All stats per NBA.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.