For one brief moment, the smile returned on Nick Young’s face.
The Lakers’ forward found joy in witnessing Kobe Bryant drop 60 points in his final game in the Lakers’ season-ending win over Utah on Wednesday at Staples Center. The reasons went beyond watching a supportive teammate, enjoying a champagne bath or Bryant taking a picture with his son. Young grew up idolizing Young as a standout at Cleveland High in Reseda and USC.
“It seemed like it was made up, like the end of the movie. All movies end on a great note,” Young said. “I couldn’t believe this. He ended with an assist though. He should’ve ended it with a shot. That’s not the Kobe I know!”
Young has plenty more to complain about than playfully nitpicking Bryant’s fifth highest scoring performance in his 20-year NBA career. He averaged 7.3 points on a career-low 33.9 percent clip. Young missed the last 17 games, 15 of which were considered healthy scratches. Young also had unresolved personal issues with Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell, who secretly recorded a video that showed Young admitting to infidelities.
Hence, Young echoed the skepticism the Lakers will retain him despite having two years left on his $11 million contract. The Lakers will either trade him or negotiate a buyout.
“You never know what’s going to happen. You know something’s got to happen,” Young said. “The Lakers will make decisions for the Lakers. It’s a business. We did win 17 games after all. Something is going to happen.”
Young hardly shied away from his hope on what he hopes happens.
“I just want to play basketball again,” Young said. “Wherever that is at, I want to enjoy being out there and playing the game I love and having fun again.”
That hardly happened in Young’s past two seasons with the Lakers. He enjoyed his time during the 2013-14 season under former coach Mike D’Antoni, which coincided with both breakout performances and an elevated role stemmed from various injuries. Under Lakers coach Byron Scott, however, Young frequently clashed with his stern coaching approach, public criticisms and fluctuating rotations.
Young resisted having any public arguments with Scott during the 2015-16 season. But there was not much of a sense the dynamic improved.
“I didn’t get a chance to get out there like I wanted to. Things happen. You have to keep going,” Young said. “It’s kind of unclear right now. There was a lot of distractions this year and a lot of things going on. It’s behind me. The season is over with. I have to keep going forward.”
Two weeks ago, Scott had said Young was “not here with us mentally” amid the fallout with Russell. While Young admitted “it was a tough one,” he described himself as a “trooper.” Still, that did not stop Young from admitting he will look to unwind this offseason. He then offered a parting message to reporters once his interview ended.
Said Young: “I’m going to enjoy my retirement later.”