As he continuously took shots that did not go in the basket, Lakers forward Nick Young upset coach Byron Scott in other ways.
Scott became frustrated that Young did not improve his passing or defense to compensate for his inconsistent shooting. Scott then became irked with Young’s frequent tardiness to games that he often fined him. Scott also chastised Young for interrupting Jeremy Lin’s post-game interview following a win against the Celtics, something Young had frequently done earlier in the season.
Yet, Lakers’ general manager Mitch Kupchak dismissed any notion that the Lakers’ concerns about him partly reflect his “Swaggy P” persona. Instead, Kupchak argued it all traces back to Young averaging 13.4 points on a career-low 36.6 percent shooting before missing the last 27 games because of a fractured left knee.
“He doesn’t have to change his personality,” Kupchak said. “That’s not what this is about. This is about doing what the coach wants you to do on the court. And he knows that. I don’t want to make a bigger deal about this than it really is.”
Yet, this has become a big deal for a number of reasons.
The Lakers tried trading Young this offseason, only to keep him after failing to find any suitors. The Lakers also acquired guard Lou Williams, who won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award last season with the Toronto Raptors after averaging 15.5 points per game. Shortly after that deal, Young had a meeting with Kupchak, which Young said partly entailed the Lakers’ general manager assuring him not to feel slighted about the move. Kupchak also argued Young and Williams have different skillsets despite both having the reputation of high-volume shooters that treat defense as an afterthought.
“I think they’re both wildcards to a degree,” Kupchak said. “I think Nick has more to prove this year than he did last year. He got injured last year. He clearly didn’t play the way he did the year before. He has to make our coach happy. I think that’s the difference. I don’t think Lou is in the same boat.”
“I think they’re different. Lou, from my understanding, is a great teammate. On the court, he’ll fit in to what Byron wants done. Nick did not last year. He has to figure out a way to get healthy, stay healthy and earn the minutes that he wants on this team.”
Young had said this summer he followed Scott’s advice to improve his ballhandling, spot-up shooting, off-ball defense and passing when facing double teams. Both Williams and Young publicly expressed optimism the two can blossom together because each player’s presence will create more open looks. But it remains to be seen how that plays out in real time, particularly if the Lakers’ win totals and Young’s statistics stay low.
But Kupchak believes otherwise.
“He has a lot to prove this offseason coming up,” Kupchak said. “He knows it and I think he’ll have a good camp.”