[Wizards 2010-11 Player Preview Index: Gilbert Arenas, Hilton Armstrong, Andray Blatche,
Trevor Booker, Kirk Hinrich, Josh Howard, Yi Jianlian, JaVale McGee, Kevin Seraphin,
Al Thornton, John Wall, Nick Young.]
-by Kyle Weidie
Did you know Nick Young likes to smile a lot? Nothing wrong with a happy-go-lucky attitude … this world needs more smiles. And scientists say it takes less muscles to smile (or more to frown). Everyone wins with smiles. Well, not always the case with Young. In July 2009 Flip Saunders implored Young to smile less and develop a mean streak. The coach expanded upon those comments in November ’09, saying:
“What I said about smiling, it wasn’t about (actually) smiling. More than anything, it was about making sure you take the game seriously. Sometimes when you’re smiling all the time, whether it’s body language or whatever, it gives the projection that everything’s going to be okay … and there’s not that sense of urgency.”
Here’s the point: smiling isn’t bad; showing that you’re having fun on the court isn’t always bad. However, you can’t always control how others perceive your outward emotions, but you can control what you give them to perceive. If Young comes across as a slight goofball, at times, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s not taking the game seriously, but it could give his opponent enough confidence to say, “I can take this chump on defense.” And if Young wants to stay on the court this year, he’ll have to make his mark by stopping people on the defensive end and by not letting his smile define him.
-by Beckley Mason
Nick Young had another typical summer chock-full of meaningless excellence. Young, who is one of the all-time great NBA Summer League players, finally left his Las Vegas glory behind. He announced his Summer League retirement after only one game in which he dropped an efficient 18 points on 11 shots.
However, the SoCal product did play in the Hanger Athletic Xchange (HAX) Real Run League in his hometown of Los Angeles. Real Run is an annual pro summer league played with NBA rules and officiated by NBA refs. Participants this year ranged from Brandon Jennings to Pooh Jeter. Young “Really Ran” with Wizards mate JaVale McGee on eventual league champions Team ESPNZone LA Live. The off-balance three-pointer specialist even garnered League MVP honors and sank the championship winning three over former teammate Shaun Livingston. It should be noted that both teams eclipsed 140 points in the championship game, so it may have been the perfect league for Young—minimal structure and defense optional.
In July, Young also hosted a week long basketball camp near his SoCal high school alma mater, Cleveland of Reseda.
-by Rashad Mobley
If summer league is any indication of how the Wizards offense will fare under John Wall, there figures to be an abundance of transition opportunities for everyone on the court. Assuming Nick Young shows a consistent ability to stay on the floor–something he’s struggled to do in his brief career–his statistics from last year prove he will thrive in that type of offense.
Last season, Young shot 41% from the field, but that percentage went up to 55% when it came to points in transition. Now, that number can certainly be misleading, because layups and dunks are often the end result of the transition game. But there were numerous instances, where Young ran to an open spot on the perimeter and nailed a jumper (more on that in the “Perfect Play” section). If Young is on the floor with Kirk Hinrich, John Wall or Gilbert Arenas, the chances are high that all three players will be make a concerted effort to push the ball, and perhaps Young can use that 55% transition field goal percentage to his advantage.
It is worth mentioning that Nick Young’s worst field goal percentage comes via the guard-style post-up. Of the 551 shots Young took last year, only six came via the post-up, and he hit one of them, which amounts to 16%. I’ll be sure to bring this up with Nick on Media Day, and if he tells me he worked on that during the off-season, I will definitely write an addendum.
The Perfect Play.
-by Rashad Mobley
During his first two years as a Washington Wizard, Young had a bad habit of over-dribbling on offense. He’d get the ball, dazzle the crowd (and maybe himself) with flashy dribbling and herky-jerky movements, and then he would shoot. When he was hot, these shots would go in all the time, and his confidence would be at an all-time high. Unfortunately for Young, he missed those shots more than he made them, causing his confidence to sink, and he’d soon find a home next to Eddie Jordan or Ed Tapscott on the bench.
When Flip Saunders arrived, he wanted Young to take a different approach to his offensive game. Instead of trying create all of his offense off the dribble, Saunders suggested that Young watch tapes of Richard Hamilton and Reggie Miller, so that he could learn how to be a prolific scorer from using screens. Looking at Young’s numbers from last year using Synergy Sports Technology demonstrates that 16.5% of his points came via screens, and he shot those at a 45% (45 for 98) clip.
But despite Saunders’ insistence that he master the catch and shoot technique off screens, the bulk of Young’s points (28.4% came via the spot-up jumper. Young’s spot-up shooting percentage of 36% was much lower than the 45% he shot off of screens, but his spot-up percentage from the three point line was 42.2%. When you combine that statistic with the possibility of the Wizards being a running team during the 2010-2011 season, it could work to Young’s advantage. Which, leads us to the perfect play for Nick Young:
In this play, we see Shaun Livingston leading a fastbreak on the bottom of the screen, with Fabricio Oberto running down the middle of the floor. Nick Young is lagging a bit behind getting ready to cross half court with Mike Miller at the top left of the screen.
Livingston sees that he has the size advantage over his defender, so he attempts to take his man in the post. Andray Blatche, fresh off of throwing the ball in-bounds, stands at the three point line, as is Mike Miller right beside him. Oberto makes his way to the other side of the post, and Young quietly sneaks to the corner behind the three-point line. Much of the Knicks’ defensive attention was on Livingston and Blatche at this point.
The Knicks realize Livingston has a mismatch in the post, so immediately they double-team him, which momentarily leaves Blatche all alone at the three-point line (Andray is a threat from there when left open, imagine Yi Jianlian doing the same). Oberto is still in the post, Miller has taken himself out the picture behind the three point line, and Young is still in the same spot at the top of the screen shot.
Livingston swings the ball to Blatche, who’s the position to shoot, while Miller awaits the pass. Although Blatche is wide open for a three point shot, he’s still a bit out of his trust-worthy range. And if he were to move in closer, the defense would converge on him, so he swings the ball to Miller.
The Knicks quickly converge on Miller, and he quickly looks to deliver the ball to Young, who’s still spotting up in the corner. Because much of the attention had previously been on Livingston, Blatche and Miller, Nick has nothing but time to deliver the shot.
Young receives Milller’s pass, squares up his shoulders, and hits the corner three.
This play worked perfectly because Blatche, Livingston and Miller were able to command enough attention so that Young could “hide” in the corner–much like Bruce Bowen did so frequently with the San Antonio Spurs. This season, the cast of characters could possibly be Blatche, Gilbert Arenas, John Wall or Kirk Hinrich, and they will also command the bulk of the attention. This will allow Young to get open shots, where he can square up his shoulders and get a good look within the flow of the offense.
-by Kyle Weidie
I don’t know why this stupid quote from the movie Training Day has stuck with me. It’s probably a hyper absurd version of former Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn’s “Stay Medium” movement, which actually is a decent lesson.
The quote I speak of was made by Ethan Hawke’s character, Jake Hoyt. Let’s set the scene: rookie cop, Jake, and veteran cop, Denzel Washington’s character (Alonzo), who just before convinced rookie cop Jake to smoke PCP, are now at “Roger’s” house, a middle-aged man with millions buried under his floor boards. Make sense, right? Exactly, it makes no sense. Just keep reading …
Jake Hoyt: You know, I already figured ‘em out. [Note: "‘em" = “the streets”]
Alonzo Harris (Denzel): Really?
Roger: You already figured the streets out.
Jake Hoyt: It’s all about smiles and cries.
Alonzo Harris: Put the drink down, man, the motherf*%ker’s out of his mind.
Roger: Hold on, Alonzo, hold on. Smiles and cries, smiles and cries, I hear ya.
Jake Hoyt: Yeah. You gotta control your smiles and cries, because that’s all you have and nobody can take that away from you.
Replace Jake with Nick Young, Alonzo with Gilbert Arenas and Roger with Javaris Crittenton and, if you’ve seen the movie (of course you have, it won awards), you have a loose comparison that’s blog-worthy. In the end, Jake prevails over the corrupt Alonzo, who’d already killed Roger (supposedly Alonzo’s “chum” beforehand) for his money because Alzono was in debt to the Russians, perhaps because of a card game played at 20,000 feet … it’s never really clear.
So what does this all mean for Nick? That he’s got to channel his emotions away from outside influences, just like Jake Hoyt did in the movie. Last season, through his struggles, many teammates, friends and family members surely told Nick to “just be him,” (a message communicated to him that he readily admitted). It’s not going to help Nick to settle for “just being him,” which is currently a guy with natural scoring instinct who’s, at times, unstoppable … but only when he doesn’t get in the way of himself. Nick Young needs to be more than the past “him” that he’s always known. He needs to grow into a man on the court. At age 25 and entering his fourth year in the NBA, it’s about time.
-by Rashad Mobley
Last year before training camp, Young made it a point to say that he needed to be starting because, “this was his third year.” Unfortunately, Young squandered his chances to consistently stay in the starting lineup, mostly due to his inconsistent play. Ultimately, for this year and beyond, Young should focus on being the sixth man off the bench a la J.R. Smith. Ideally, Saunders and the coaching staff will go to Nick Young and tell him, that as the sixth man, he is guaranteed 20 minutes of playing time every night. If his shot is off, he’ll have to defend hard and keep shooting but he won’t get a minute of playing time beyond the allotted 20 minutes. If his shot his on, and he’s playing well, he could earn more than 20 minutes, and possibly play in crunch time as well. If Young is guaranteed 20 minutes a game as the first player off the bench, his confidence will rise, and he’ll have more time to hit that spot-up jumper.
The Money Quote.
“We ain’t trying to be like a New Jersey Net.”