As he laced up his sneakers and prepared for another workout to test out his injured left knee, Nick Young jokingly envisioned how the Lakers should handle his potential free agency.
“They should launch a ‘Stay Swag’ campaign,” Young laughed , an obvious reference to the Lakers’ unsuccessful signs plastered around Los Angeles last summer pleading for Dwight Howard to stay.
This week, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak credited Young for having a “great year,” averaging 16.9 points per game and showing a better commitment toward defense. Kupchak then added, “my guess is he’s going to opt out” of his $1.2 million player option in hopes of securing a longer and lucrative deal.
Young politely declined to address Kupchak’s foreshadowing. But Young’s agent, Mark Bartelstein told this newspaper it’s presumptuous to think Kupchak’s prediction will pan out.
“Nick wants to be a Laker,” Bartelstein said. “But his focus right now is to get healthy, get back on the court soon and finish the rest of the season. That’s a conversation Mitch and I will have, but it’s too early at this point to talk about what he’s going to do.”
If Young exercises his player option, he secures his standing with the Lakers for one season albeit with money perhaps below his market value. If Young opts out of his current contract, he could secure a longer and more lucractive deal with the Lakers. But that scenario could prompt the Lakers to allow Young to sign with another team considering the team’s hope to maintain financial flexibility.
Considering his scoring output ranks second only behind Pau Gasol, is Young at least leaning toward opting out of his contract?
“No. Look, Nick’s play speaks for itself,” Bartelstein said. “He’s proven that he’s worth more than what his contract entails when he signed with the Lakers. But again, we’re not focused on that right now. He’s focusing on getting healthy and continuing to play well.”
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni expressed optimism that Young could play Sunday against Brooklyn, marking his first appearance since missing the past six games because of a non-displaced fracture and bone bruise in his left knee.
D’Antoni lauded Young’s high-volume scoring and ability to create his own shot. But D”Antoni suggested his concentration on defense waned.
”He’s been playing well,” D’Antoni said. “But now he just needs to play better.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org