If you ask Nick Young, “resurrection” wouldn’t be too strong of a word to describe where he is now after his journey this off-season.
“I was like the hand out the grave,” Young said. “I’m still here. I’m just going to keep fighting, keep going.”
On Wednesday, Young opened the season as the Lakers’ starting shooting guard. And while it’s possible Coach Luke Walton alters the lineup, it represents a remarkable turnaround for Young. As recently as six weeks ago, many expected that the Lakers would release Young if they couldn’t trade him.
Instead he came to training camp in great shape and forced his way into a significant role.
The transformation started with defense. It wasn’t one of Young’s hallmarks, but Walton knew he had it in him. During Young’s first season with the Lakers, Walton had seen Young play defense well and reminded Young of that this preseason. With the prospect of more playing time, Young bought into what Walton wanted from him defensively.
“The hard work I put in this summer, everything I dealt with, teammates still believing in me, coaching staff still here on my side,” Young said. “It’s a great thing.”
During his pregame news conference at Staples Center, Rockets Coach Mike D’Antoni joked that he’d rather not, when asked to revisit some of his memories of being the Lakers head coach.
D’Antoni coached the Lakers for two seasons. They went 40-32 under D’Antoni during the 2012-13 season, then dropped to 27-55 the following season. It took him two years to get another chance at a head coaching job, but he wasn’t sure that would come.
“I don’t think anybody in this league’s confident that you’re going to do it just because there’s only 30 jobs and you’ve gotta hit it right,” D’Antoni said. “I got lucky with a team that wants to play the way I want to coach. That’s great. We’re all blessed to have jobs and be in the league. If it didn’t happen it didn’t happen. I would’ve been happy either way.”
The Lakers exercised the 2017-18 team options on forwards Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle, and point guard D’Angelo Russell.
That will mark Randle’s fourth NBA season as he was the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft, while it will be the third for Russell (second overall in 2015) and Nance (27th overall in 2015).