If his smile hasn’t already given it away, it’s clear Nick Young’s having fun.
He’s having fun wearing a Lakers uniform after growing up here admiring the purple and gold. The former Cleveland High standout’s having fun reuniting with his high school rivald, Jordan Farmar, a former Woodland Hills Taft star. Young’s also having fun scoring in bunches, even if it’s in a role he never had envisioned.
After shuffling back and forth in the starting lineup, Young has thrived in the backup small forward spot by posting double-digit efforts in the past four games. He has averaged 16.5 points on 53.5 percent shooting in six games off the bench, a vast improvement from the 9.5 points he posted on a 33.3 percent clip through six games as a starter.
“I’m coming off and playing with the mindset to go hard,” Young said. “I know my team needs me to get buckets. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Young has done so with minimal complaints. So much that he’s constantly gushed about competing for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.
“I’m going for it! Campaign for me,” Young said, while laughing. “I’m going to go each game and play it and try to continue the best I could.”
The Lakers have noticed both Young’s play and how he has accepted his bench role with grace.
“He’s handled it well. He’s said he doesn’t care,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said about Young playing as a reserve. “He’ll play hard no matter what. Nick is a great guy.”
There’s something else catching D’Antoni’s attention, too.
“I like his concentration on defense and ability to sustain his energy,” D’Antoni said. That’s the bit of a knock. He’s trying to do the best he can do. Now he can be very dangerous on offense because the other stuff is not negative.”
Instead, Young’s bringing something positive.
With power forward Jordan Hill taking his energy from the bench to the starting lineup, Young has tried filling that role with a does of scoring binges. In the Lakers’ 114-99 victory Sunday over the Detroit Pistons, Young played a large part in the Lakers’ closing out the third quarter with a 10-0 run. Young posted eight of those points by driving to the basket, nailing a three-pointer and doing the same on a mid-range jumper.
Young has fulfilled this job description while still wearing that his signature infectious smile.
“I’m not trying to mess up the team or nothing,” Young said. “I’m just going to try to play my role and do what I can.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org