The Curious Case of Nick Young
[Editor's Note: Rashad Mobley has reported on the Wizards with media credentials since the 2008-09 season for Hoops Addict. He will be contributing to Truth About It.net on an occasional basis, providing excellent analysis and a different perspective from his up-close coverage of the team.]
The Washington Wizards were defeated by the San Antonio Spurs last night, 106-84, and the topics of discussion after the game were endless. There was the topic of Mike Miller, and the warrior mentality he displayed prior to injuring his calf; you could discuss the fact that the Wizards were only able to muster 12 assists in 48 minutes; or you could even discuss the continuing struggle of former All-Star Caron Butler, who only scored eight points in 32 minutes of play. But to me, the biggest subplot that came out of this bad loss, happened prior to the game, and this information came to my attention via Twitter, courtesy of Washington Post beat writer, Michael Lee.
“Flip said he plans to use Fab Oberto vs. Tim Duncan tonight, which means Nick Young will be inactive…”
My first reaction about reading those words was to say to no one in particular, “What?!” My second reaction was to retweet (the traditional way, not the new way Twitter is forcing down my throat). And, of course, my third reaction was to write.
In case you’ve forgotten, Nick Young is coming off a season that saw him appear in all 82 games and average 10.9 points a game. When the Wizards roster was depleted with injuries, Young received a generous amount of playing time, and he delivered in a large way. There was one stretch in mid-January that saw him score 30 in consecutive outings, and it certainly seemed like Young would be part of the Wizards plans once everyone got healthy.
During the off-season, Flip Saunders was brought into the mix, and he mentioned that he wanted Young to play the Rip Hamilton role in the Wizards offense, and that’s a challenge Young relished. He shot 500 jumpers a day during the off-season, he averaged 23 points during summer league, and it seemed like he was well on his way to earning a spot in the Flip’s rotation.
During media day, an inspired Young looked me dead in the face and said, “This is my third year; I’m ready to start.”
But once the regular season started, the confidence that came from all the hard work Young put in last season and over the summer vanished as quickly as Paul Davis. Of the 11 games the Wizards played before last night’s match against the Spurs, Young had only played in five of them, and in those games, his numbers were as follows: 4-of-20 shooting, 12 points scored total, a two points per game average and 44 minutes played.
When Mike Miller was out with a shoulder, Flip Saunders inserted Young in the lineup against the Indiana Pacers, and it looked he was get a chance to prove to himself, his coach and his team that an increase in minutes was warranted. Less than a minute into the game, Young hit a three point jumper, and a slight sly smile crept across his face. Then, just eight seconds later, Young blocked a layup by TJ Ford, and it appeared as if Young was well on his way to a big game.
After that block, Young missed three open shots, picked up three fouls, and lost his confidence completely. He was so out of sync, that Flip started Randy Foye in his place during the second half. Young was only able to re-enter the game during garbage time when the Wizards were down by 20 points. He finished with three points in 15 minutes of play.
Young went from a start in Indiana, to lessened playing time, to getting DNPs in full uniform, to being told last night he would be inactive.
To add insult to (the lack of) injury, here are the players who are getting playing time in front of Nick Young: 1) Earl Boykins, who wasn’t in the NBA last year, or on opening day this year, but stepped in and scored 20 points in his debut, and has averaged 12 points in just four games; 2) Mike Miller, who prior to injuring his calf against the Spurs, was nursing a severely sprained shoulder, that clearly hindered his performance on the court; 3) Randy Foye, who is still struggling to get back to full speed after his spraining his ankle a week and a half ago.
Now the Wizards are 3-9. Mike Miller looks like he’s going to be out for an extended period of time with an injured calf, and Young may once again be called upon to help out the Wizards in some way shape or form.
To quote the Gatorade commercials that seemingly come on my television every five minutes, “Is it in you, Nick?”
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