As the losses keep mounting and the Lakers continue to reach their mark as possibly the worst team in franchise history, they are still searching for small slivers of growth in all places imaginable.
How will a young roster destined for free agency turn out? How much effort will they put in regardless of the circumstances. And as demonstrated in the Lakers’ 117-107 loss Friday to the Washington Wizards at Staples Center, how much will the Lakers show willingness to stick up for each other?
Well, in the case of standing up for Nick Young, a lot.
Two months after Young called out teammates for coming to his aid during an altercation in Phoenix, the Lakers forward discovered both Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill coming to his rescue. With 2:14 left in the fourth quarter, Young went up for a shot only to have his arm locked with Washington forward Drew Gooden. He continued to lock him up, a serious incident that could have separated Young’s shoulder.
“It was uncalled for,” Young said. “I felt like he was trying to WWF me and flip me over.”
So, Young stepped toward Gooden and pushed him while he was on the ground. Gasol immediately wrapped up Young and moved him away from the fray. With Wizards center Marcin Gortat trying to intervene, Hill charged like a linebacker before wrapping him up too.
Officials both ejected Gortat for a flagrant foul type 2 and Hill for a technical foul, while Young stayed in the game with only a technical.
“Jordan can’t go in and do that. But it is what it is,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “There’s ways you do it. You can’t go in and escalate it. You need to protect your guys. Mostly it’s a hold and grab so nobody gets hurt. The referees sorted it out. Some guys get rambunctious. It happens.”
Still, how the Lakers reacted there proved much better than their actions in the team’s loss two months ago in Phoenix.
It started when Phoenix forward Alex Len delivered a hard foul on Young that knocked him to the floor as he drove for a layup. Young immediately stood up and shoved Len back. Young and Suns forward Marcus Morris also shared shoves. Young then made contact with an open hand on Dragic’s head after he entered the fray. Len also earned a flagrant foul 2 and a subsequent ejection. Morris was slapped with a technical foul. Young soon removed his jersey before entering the player’s tunnel.
Meanwhile, neither Kendall Marshall or Ryan Kelly came to Young’s defense, prompting him to lament that he felt like he was playing “one on five.”
Young sounded grateful.
“I owe him something, a night out or something,” Young said about Hill. “I’m glad he came to my aid. Him and Pau. We need to have that fight more. That’s why I believe we’ll win more games. We should continue to go out there and battle.”
That didn’t translate in a game where the Lakers conceded double digit efforts to John Wall (28 points), Bradley Beal (18 points), Al Harrington (15 points), Gortat (13 points), Trevor Ariza (12 points) and Martell Webster (11 points).
But at least the Lakers prevented a quickly escalating situation into morphing into something pretty ugly.
“When a fight breaks out, you have to keep your guy out of the mix and keep him out of trouble,” Gasol said. “That’s something we didn’t do early on. I tried to grab him and get him early out in that situation so he wouldn’t get ejected. With Jordan, I couldn’t duplicate myself and hold both.”
Regardless, that left the Lakers mostly laughing off the incident than pointing fingers at each other.
“He’d probably never fight anybody,” Lakers forward Xavier Henry joked about Young. “He always goes with his hands open. We’re not worried about him actually fighting. We got his back. Nick will never fight anybody, probably never in his life.”