Lakers’ Nick Young says he’s learned from struggles, still ‘Swaggy P’
Get ready for Kobe Bryant at small forward. And the return of Nick Young, as loquacious and shot-hoisting as ever.
The doors opened to the Lakers’ first scrimmage of the season and Bryant wasn’t at shooting guard. Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams were in the backcourt, pushing Bryant to an apparent new home.
Not that Bryant cared. He uttered a church-related curse when asked how new it would be, reminding reporters he played the position in the past.
It was true, though in spurts and not in a long while.
“I don’t have to handle the ball really at all, which leaves more time to catch and shoot. Makes my job a lot easier,” said Bryant, looking to preserve whatever he can in his 20th NBA season.
He shrugged off the fact he didn’t touch the ball often in the scrimmage parts open to the media.
“I don’t think it matters. You just play the flow of the game and see what comes,” he said, smiling.
Young was very active Wednesday, making three-pointers, driving to the hoop and, of course, talking a lot of trash on the second day of training camp at the University of Hawaii.
The “P” in his self-proclaimed moniker stood for problem last season, but Young said he learned quite a bit after getting in trouble for picking Twitter fights with an ESPN anchor and Snoop Dogg. He also drew the ire of Coach Byron Scott for not being serious enough and from fans for an over-the-top celebration after a February victory that made the Lakers 14-41.
On Wednesday, Young said he resented “just getting caught up in all the drama, and letting it get to me. That’s not me. I normally do stuff and just brush it off.”
He said it in a subdued manner, still feeling the sting of shooting 36.6% and missing almost half of last season because of thumb and knee injuries.
It made one wonder whether Young was changing his persona. Perhaps a little more boring nowadays?
“Nah. I’m still ‘Swaggy P,’” he said. “I don’t like being ‘Nicholas.’ You know, I’m the man when it’s all said and done. I’m just a cool guy. It’s just in my DNA.”
Scott confirmed it. Or at least the continually chattering part.
“Nick is always talking,” he said. “But it was good. I like when guys are going at each other. I like that competition.”
Rookie D’Angelo Russell earned Scott’s praise by not reacting after Young beat him on a drive and yapped at him.
“Don’t pay him much mind,” Scott said. “Get ready for the next play. D’Angelo is a very low-key guy. You don’t see him get too hyped up about things.”
Russell, the second pick in the draft, scrimmaged for a while with the first unit. He didn’t do anything of note during the media-access portion, still figuring out the difference between Ohio State and the NBA. But at least one person was strongly in his corner.
“He already has my trust,” Bryant said. “He’s a gym rat.”
Power forward Brandon Bass spent more time with the starters than Julius Randle, notable because the veteran might get more playing time than the second-year player at the start of the season.
Scott and Bass have a familiarity with each other that dates to 2005, Bass’ rookie year. Scott was his coach then in New Orleans.
“He has a great idea of what he can do on the floor at all times,” Scott said. “When I had him, he was just a deer in the headlights. He had all that energy and all that physical gifts that he has, but he really had no idea how to really play.”
Bass has started about 40% of his 640 career games and has averaged 9.1 points and 4.7 rebounds. He signed a two-year, $6.1-million deal with the Lakers and can opt out of it next June.
By design, Bryant did not take part in the afternoon session of two-a-days Wednesday. . . . The Lakers have two more days of two-a-days this week. Their exhibition opener is here Sunday against Utah.
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