Young's swagger, confidence sparking L.A.

November, 23, 2013
11/23/13
8:40
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Pau Gasol came into Friday's game against the Golden State Warriors pledging to donate $1,000 for every point he scored to Philippines relief and ended up scoring a game-high 24 points in the Los Angeles Lakers' 102-95 win.

[+] EnlargeNick Young
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesA confident Nick Young has averaged 19.3 points in his last three games and 17.2 over his last five.
Nick Young came into Friday's game more than 20 minutes late -- arriving well past the team's 6 p.m. set time wearing Edward Scissorhands/Michael Jackson-inspired skinny black pants adorned with all sorts of zippers and leather patches -- and went on to tie his season high with 21 points off the bench.

Go figure, right? Whatever works.

"He is unique," Gasol said of Young when asked to compare "Swaggy P" to the scores of teammates he's played with during his 13-year career. "He is definitely special. He’s a guy that feeds on his own confidence, so when he feels good about himself, he becomes a very effective player and a great scorer. So tonight he got it going. He hit some big shots. He’s a very skilled offensive player, but he definitely has a personality and we have to embrace it."

Young's game has been shining as much as his personality recently, as the 28-year-old shooting guard has averaged 19.3 points in his last three games and 17.2 in his last five. He came into Friday's game as the league's fourth-highest scoring reserve.

Is sixth man of the year on Young's mind?

"I’m just trying to get wins," Young said. "If it happens, there’s some more bragging rights for me to just talk trash and just have fun with it."

Then what about defensive player of the year, as a reporter facetiously suggested, almost just to see what Young would say?

"I might get that too," Young said. "The way it’s going, you know? At first, I couldn’t play defense; now I’m about to be defensive player of the year."

"It’s great," said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni. "He has a great personality, and he’s fun. He’s always laughing. He’s always up. Plus, he’s playing defense, which makes his jokes a little funnier. It’s nice. He’s concentrating. He’s doing it with a lot of energy. He always can score the ball, and he did it tonight. One 3 he made, it stopped the slide; that was huge."

Young nailed two 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the third quarter to help L.A. build back a 12-point lead heading into the fourth. This came after the Lakers saw their nine-point halftime lead completely disappear with Golden State coming back to tie the game.

The first 3 barely beat the shot clock. His second was set up by some nifty ballhandling and footwork that involved him spinning around to make sure he was behind the arc when he launched the shot.

Was that a pirouette, Nick?

"My first love was being a dancer," Young said. "So it just came out of me today."

D'Antoni was right. The jokes are funnier. And the defense is better too. The trigger-happy Young has taken to that end of the court by thinking of it in terms of offense. If you play good enough D to get a steal, that will often lead to an uncontested shot.

"I’m just trying to have fun out there and get some dunks," Young said. "That’s all it’s about. With me getting steals, somebody is getting an easy bucket and highlight reel, and there’s nothing like a highlight reel being in L.A., boy."

[+] EnlargeJordan Farmar
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesJordan Farmar, who has been playing with Nick Young since their AAU days in high school, has given the Lakers a much-needed boost.
Young should know. The L.A. native is blossoming in his bench role alongside fellow Angeleno Jordan Farmar. The two have been playing together since their AAU days in high school.

"He’s a fun guy to play with," said Farmar, who had 14 points, eight assists and zero turnovers against the Warriors, chipping in four points and one assist during the Lakers' late third-quarter flurry to take over the game again. "He gets the energy going, the crowd going, and once he starts smiling and feeling good about himself, it’s kind of contagious."

Not that Farmar and Young are both a couple of funboys like Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan in the "Night at the Roxbury" sketch on "Saturday Night Live."

"Jordan is not as extravagant as Nick is," Gasol said of Farmar, who was wearing a earth-toned sweater after the game, in stark contrast to Young's zipper pants, Air Jordan 7 Raptors, some sort of smock-like flannel hoodie, two gold chains and a red leather designer backpack that Young described as his "Yeezus" look.

"This is my Kanye edition," Young said. "This is what happens when you’re GQ man of the year."

(He was actually ranked No. 19 on GQ's list of the 20 most stylish athletes of 2013 -- two spots behind teammate Steve Nash -- but saying the specifics wouldn't have sounded as "Swaggy," I'm sure.)

Young and Farmar have infused the team with a much-needed boost of genuine chemistry -- something that was clearly lacking last season.

"To me, the biggest thing is everybody is accepting of the guy in front of them or beside them and everybody is rooting for everybody, and we just didn’t have that last year," D'Antoni said. "Obviously we’re not as talented, but it’s a lot better team."

"Rooting" also involves "ribbing" when it comes to Young and Farmar. Like when Farmar, the former UCLA Bruin, posted a photo of the former USC Trojan's feet on his Instagram account with the caption, "Who let the dogs out!"

"We’ve just been knowing each other for a while," Young said. "Work out together. So we pretty much know each other’s game. This isn’t our first go-round. We go over plays together, shoot together. Like I said, he cracks jokes all the time on me. I got to get him back now."

As long as the Lakers continue to have each other's backs, let the pranks roll on. Just maybe tone down the outfits.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
24.6 4.9 1.4 35.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.2
AssistsK. Bryant 4.9
StealsR. Price 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.2