Nick Young begins practicing with uncertainty on his return

With the ball in his hands, Nick Young dribbled to the perimeter, sank a three-pointer and then showed more of his infectious personality that has defined his stay here with the Lakers.

Young held out three fingers and then belted out a roar that pro wrestler Ric Flair uttered often: “Whooo!”

Yes, Young looked like he hasn’t missed a beat in his first practice Monday since sitting out the past 10 games because of persisting soreness in his left knee. But when will he return?

Neither the Lakers nor Young know.

The Lakers spoke Monday before practice, which wasn’t expected to include full-court five-on-five drills. But neither Young isn’t cleared yet to play in such drills anyway. Jordan Hill returned to practice too after missing the past seven games because of soreness in his right knee. But the Lakers say he’s not ready for full-court five-on-five drills either.

As for Young, he express hope last week he would return when the Lakers (22-44) host the San Antonio Spurs (50-16) on Wednesday at Staples Center. But Young may not return until Friday vs. Washington or maybe even later.

“It depends on how I feel really,” Young said. “I’ll see if I can go as early as Friday. You never know.”

In one example that the Lakers have something to play before despite officially being eliminated for the playoffs, Young’s return and subsequent play could play a large part in his future. Young has averaged a second-leading 16.8 points this season, but will return amid a bloated wing position that has featured Kent Bazemore, Xavier Henry and occasionally MarShon Brooks. Meanwhile, Young has a $1.2 million player option he may opt out of in hopes of a longer and more lucrative deal.

“I feel like I did a lot this year for myself,” Young said. “For me, I want to go out there and end it on a good note and get out there and this could be my last couple of times here. You never know. But I’ll always be a Laker fan for life.”

Departing words?

Perhaps. But first things first. Young needs to return.

Young has missed 14 of the past 15 games because of soreness in his left knee and hasn’t progressed his rehab beyond weight training, spot-up shooting and running on a weight-bearing treadmill. Young also reported he has to improve his conditioning and mental preparation stemmed from staying sidelined for the past month.

“I’m dealing with pain and trying to push off of it,” Young said. “If I get bumped again, I don’t want to be out for the year.”

So why isn’t Young wearing a brace?

“Wearing a brace makes you look old,” Young said. “You can’t be looking like that out there.”

Instead, the Lakers remain cautiously optimistic he can return and assuming the large scoring role he once had.

“I hope he gets back,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He needs to have a good strong finish and did really well at first. As soon as he gets healthy enough, he’ll be back on the floor.”


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

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