The look in Nick Young’s eyes showed someone intent on making his lifelong dream of becoming a Laker a memorable one.
Young’s pupils appeared focused and wide-eyed, the kind of image Kobe Bryant often shows when he’s ready to go on a scoring binge. But with Bryant out of the lineup as he rehabs his left Achilles tendon, Young wasted no time filling that scoring role. As he finished the Lakers’ 104-95 preseason win over the Golden State Warriors at Citizens Business Bank Arena with 17 points in only 19 minutes, Young also crossed off an item on his life-long bucket list.
“It really hit me today when I stepped on that court. I was like, ‘I’m really a Laker. I’m really here now,’” said Young, a former Cleveland High and USC product. “I made my first bucket and started feeling it a little bit and got it going.”
Young sure did, scoring 14 second-quarter points and dazzling the crowd with a bunch of jaw-dropping plays that represent his thirst for throwing the ball in the basket.
Young pump-faked Warriors guard Stephen Curry into the air before making a long jumper, drawing a foul and making the free throw. Moments later, Young threw Harrison Barnes off balance with a crossover dribble before stepping back and canning an open jumper.
“You seen that?,” Young said with a beaming smile when his crossover play was mentioned. “That was nice, man. I can’t give up my secrets. People are watching me!”
What was that moment like?
“Oh man,” Young said. “It’s a great moment when you see the bench and everyone going crazy. You have to make the shot first. You can’t celebrate before you make the shot. If you make the shot, there’s nothing like it.”
Not everything went according to plan, though.
Young earned his fifth foul early in the third quarter, left for the bench and sat the rest of the game. That paved the way for Xavier Henry to score a career-high 29 points off the bench. But Young’s penchant for drawing whistles became the only sound strategy for stopping himself from scoring with ease.
“Stay out of foul trouble. Oh man,” Young said. “That ain’t like me. At one point, I thought I was going to foul out. If coach kept me in, I would’ve been on that sideline anyway.”
Otherwise, it’s hard to envision anything keeping Young away from the court.
The Lakers also played without Pau Gasol and Steve Nash so they can rest for the second night of tonight’s back-to-back against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center. It also appears unclear when Bryant will return to the lineup, leaving a player such as Young with loads of chances to carve out his niche.
“He can get on streaks like that,” Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said of Young. “Until Kobe comes back, we’re going to need a guy that can throw the ball up at the end of the shot clock and make his own play, and he can do that.”
And by fulfilling that job description, Young sounded confident an influential teammate known for going on such scoring streaks would approve of such a performance.
“I know Kobe’s probably watching. I wish he was there out on the court,” Young said. “I know without Pau, without Nash and without Kobe, there needs to be somebody to score. I knew I had to step in and be that person.”
After all, Young’s finally a Laker, and he’s trying to live out his dream as best he can.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org