Nick Young says he and Wesley Johnson will compete for starting spot

As he’s spent the past month in informal workouts at the Lakers’ practice facility, Nick Young has heard coach Mike D’Antoni harp on one thing and one thing only.

Shoot the ball.

Young hardly struggles with that, as evidenced by his gun-slinging ways that, for better and for worse, contributed to averaging 11.3 points, 1.9 rebounds and one assist in six seasons. Apparently, though, Young needs to dial it up even more.

“He was on me when I was passing so much earlier today,” Young said Tuesday night at the NBA2K14 launch party at the Greystone Manor in West Hollywood. “I didn’t have that in a while. I’m excited.”

How Young responds to that could determine his role. The former USC and Cleveland High of Reseda standout revealed D’Antoni’s intentions that both he and Wesley Johnson are spending part of training camp competing for the starting spot at small forward.

“I think it’s going to be a little bit of both,” Young said. “Wesley is young and athletic and could fit in that Shawn Marion type game. That’s what they like about him.”

They like Young, of course, because of his athleticism and scoring mentality. Meanwhile, the Lakers see potential in Johnson as a solid perimeter defender. Still, the fourth selection in the 2010 NBA Draft has only averaged 7.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in 23.1 minutes in three uneventful seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns.

It’s possible both might see more playing time if Kobe Bryant remains sidelined or at least limited for part of the season because of his surgically repaired left Achilles tendon. But whenever Bryant is healthy, perhaps it’d be plausible for Young to come off the bench so his scoring load isn’t compromised.

Young appears to have plenty of motivation.

“We’re all competitive right now and trying to get right,” Young said. “We have a lot to prove. A lot of people are doubting us. We just have to go out, play and have fun.”

That doubt also extends to NBA2K14.

I alerted Young that I received an advance copy of the video game and performed my own simulation, which predicted the Lakers would miss the playoffs. I also mentioned that before the trading deadline, the Lakers traded Young to the Clippers for J.J. Redick.

“I don’t want to repeat deja vu,” Young said with a smile. “I’m going to talk to them. I’m asking them where the game is at. But you’re telling me bad news. I might throw this game over the roof.”

He also didn’t sound thrilled the game gave him a 73 player rating.

“I’m like a cheat code on the game,” Young said. “I still make shots. I don’t like that 73.”

Young will have a chance to correct that, first by beating out Johnson for a starting spot.


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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at

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