Mike D’Antoni hopes Nick Young sharpens up defense during return

With the same confidence that he showed in a recent GQ Magazine shot, Nick Young offered some advice on how newcomers Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks can build off their impressive debut.

“Pass me the ball!,” Young playfully said before leaving the practice court.

But with Young returning Sunday when the Lakers host the Brooklyn Nets at Sunday (6 p.m.) since nursing a fractured left knee that kept him out for the past six games, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni shared some different advice.

“He hit a little bit of a dip after an unbelievable start,” D’Antoni said. “Hopefully he’ll have a break he had and have the same energy defensively that he had. Nick can be really good and help us a lot.”

Defensive effort has always proven a knock on Young during his six-year NBA career. But the Lakers credited Young for making strides this season, averaging 16.9 points per game and showing such strong effort that he’s occasionally taken charges. What’s accounted for the change?

“I don’t’ know,” Young said. “You’ll see tomorrow. Mike has been on me all year with that. It’s had when you’re playing with seven guys. You have to conserve some energy somewhere.”

But D’Antoni doesn’t want anyone, including Young, conserving the energy on defense. But with Young shooting below 50 percent for seven consecutive games before his injury, D’Antoni believes the added rest coupled with a more depthful roster to foster Young’s growth.

The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Young’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, told this newspaper that his client hasn’t decided will opt out of his $1.2 million player option in hopes of securing a more lucrative and longer deal with the Lakers, as general manager Mitch Kupchak recently predicted. But Bartelstein made it clear Young’s play will increase his market value.

“I think we all feel that,” Young said. “But you can’t really put too much pressure on yourself. We all know what’s at stake here. We all have a lot of one year deals. But my main thing is to go out there and play as hard as you can. Swag up and have fun out there.”

Young still kept that positive outlook despite sitting out for two weeks and continuously rehabbed a knee some feared would force him to sit out longer.

“I don’t know what it was. It was a miracle,” Young said. “They can’t keep the swag down. Nah, I talked to Kobe [Bryant] a little bit. He brought it back for me.”

But will that improved health prompt Young to take up more charges?

“Just the other day he told me to bring the energy we had from the beginning from when we first played Brooklyn,” Young said of D’Antoni. “When I took that charge, I had no choice. I’m going to try to find it. But I don’t want to bail on my knees too much.”

But make no mistake, Young will offer plenty of more scoring, too. Hence, why Young offered the advice to the Lakers’ newcomers and why forward Chris Kaman sounded excited about his teammates’ return.

“Nick, you playing tomorrow?” Kaman yelled during Young’s interview session.

“Yeah, brother!” Young said.

Said Kaman: “I love it!

So do the rest of the Lakers, who hope his theatrical scoring, infectious smile and pleasant personality coincides with some sharper defense.


Nick Young’s agent stresses client “wants to be a Laker”

Mitch Kupchak pleads patience with rebuilding process

Lakers’ Nick Young learning a lot from Kobe Bryant

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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  • Ken von Kriegenbergh

    How would he know if Young sharpens his defense, defense is something D’Antoni is not familiar with.

  • #1 No “D” Antoni Hater

    Since when does no “d” Antoni feel he has the right of all ppl to critisize anyone on defense? Just check his resume on teams ratings on defensive efficiency that he has coached since the day he 1st started coaching, 29th, 28th, 28th, 26, 27, always dead last or near.