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Nick Young among veterans seeing court time trimmed to give newer players a chance

Nick Young among veterans seeing court time trimmed to give newer players a chance
Lakers guard Nick Young drives against the Phoenix Suns during the first half on Thursday. (Matt York / Associated Press)

Nick Young had laced up his shoes and started his walk out of the Lakers' locker room Sunday evening, lamenting a chance that might've passed.

"I had like 169," he said, mildly inflating the 166 3-point shots he's made this season.

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But this wasn't boasting. Young, who earlier Sunday wanted to know the franchise record for most 3's in a season (it's 183 by Nick Van Exel) spoke like someone who knew his chances to launch over the season's final 17 games would be severely limited.

Sunday, Lakers Coach Luke Walton removed Young from the starting lineup for the first time this season. The move, Walton said, isn't a punishment.

"Nick has been one of our best two players all year long," Walton said.

No, the move is more about the Lakers' mind-set as they enter the season's final month, where Young chasing the franchise's 3-point record is a distant second priority to getting starts for undrafted free agent David Nwaba.

"Again, Nick's been absolutely great for us all year," Walton said. "but with giving (Young) so many minutes and wanting to see more of David and see Tyler (Ennis) a little bit before the season end, it's not really fair to him to keep playing four or five minutes per half. We're thinking about making that move and committing even more so to the youth."

In addition to moving Young out of the starting lineup, Walton made another move he'd been "toying" with making for some time. Rookie center Ivica Zubac made his second career start, a move that came just days after Magic Johnson, the Lakers new president of basketball operations, said he wanted to see the team's second-round pick in the starting lineup.

Walton wouldn't commit to a plan going forward on who would be the guard opposite D'Angelo Russell in the team's starting lineup.

"We'll go in a direction and see how it's going and what it looks like. Depending on that, we might make another change," he said. "We're just going to continue to get some more opportunity and some more information on some of these young guys going into the off-season."

In addition to Young, veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov don't appear to be in the team's spring plans. Deng and Mozgov, who were the Lakers' marquee off-season signings at a cost of roughly $34 million, were both healthy scratches from the active roster Sunday night against Philadelphia.

Young said before Sunday's game that he had spoken to Walton and was on board with the new direction, even if it meant he wouldn't be breaking Van Exel's 3-point record.

"It's nothing. It's that time of year," Young said. "He wants to check out the young guys, evaluate them. I understand that. It's nothing personal. It's not like I'm doing some crazy stuff."

Similar situations

Even if Brett Brown's a foot shorter than the Lakers' coach, even if Brown's accent is from the opposite coast of Walton's California cadence, the two coaches Sunday night have plenty in common.

Brown, a longtime assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, got plenty used to winning in the NBA before taking on a challenge in Philadelphia, just like Walton and his time in San Antonio.

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And, just like Walton, early in his tenure with Philadelphia, Brown saw his team's front office undergo a major shakeup, with tank architect Sam Hinkie being replaced by Bryan Colangelo this past April.

Brown said the changes in management were easy to navigate because even with the faces changing, the mission never did.

"I think the main thing that's made this very fluid and very easy is the path that we decided to go on hasn't changed," Brown said. "It's not like all of a sudden we wanted to change a philosophy or go in a different direction."

Notes

Walton said he didn't think new General Manager Rob Pelinka would have a big impact on the team over the final weeks of the regular season. "It's going to impact going into the summer more than anything, honestly," Walton said. "I think it's a great time for him to get in there, get into the office, get a feel for it and start reaching out and making those connections. And really getting a good feel for what we're looking to do going into the off-season." …Walton did his pregame media Sunday night wearing an Arizona basketball shirt, boasting of his alma mater's victory in the Pac-12 Tournament on Saturday night.

Lakers tonight

AT DENVER

When: 7:30 PDT Monday.

Where: Pepsi Center.

On the air: TV TNT; Radio: 710 1330.

Records: Lakers 20-46, Nuggets 31-35

Record vs. Nuggets: 1-1.

Update: The Nuggets, with seven players averaging in double figures, are trying to hand on to the final playoff spot in the West.

—Steve Horn

Twitter: @DanWoikeSports

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