The Los Angeles Lakers were in trouble. Through the first ten games of this season, one of the league’s two most decorated teams in history was 1-10 and had become a punchline via the play of its fearless, sociopathic leader, Kobe Bryant. People were pointing fingers. Coach Byron Scott refused to acknowledge the league’s most efficient shot, the corner three, in any capacity, allowing Kobe and others to settle for long twos late in the shot clock. Kobe became festively jovial about his team’s historic incompetence. The Clippers officially became the team of Los Angeles. Carlos Boozer became an important cog in a professional basketball team, and it wasn’t the Philadelphia 76ers. The skies over Manhattan Beach, once a clear purple and gold, filled with dark clouds.
But then, a hero emerged. The perfect antidote to the Lakers’ struggles, it turns out, was swag, and only one man had the power to rescue Kobe Bryant from himself. That man is Nick Young, and this week’s 3-Pointer is dedicated (almost) entirely to him.
1. The Los Angeles Lakers with Nick Young are 2-0: A whole host of maladies have plagued the Lakers this season, from seeming front office apathy to key injuries spanning generations (top pick Julius Randle and former all-galaxy point guard Steve Nash). Kobe Bryant was the only part of this mismatched puzzle worth watching, and even that was only a spectacle because of the incredible extremes to which he always plays the game. He recently set the all-time record for missed field goal attempts in the NBA. Demoralizing losses piled up, and previously unheard of trade speculation began to surround Kobe. Darkness had crept from the edge of town to the hardwood of the Staples Center.
Enter this man:
Swaggy P returned to the Lakers’ lineup on November 18th, on the road against the Atlanta Hawks. Sure enough, he scored 17, and the Lakers pulled out their first road victory of the season. Swag attributed it to his “swagger factor” rubbing off on the rest of the team. And you know what, dear reader? HE’S ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. PROOF IN POINT 2:
2. In an effort to disprove the fluky nature of the victory over the Hawks, the Lakers defeated the Houston Rockets for a second consecutive victory. NICK YOUNG IS 2-0: Coming off a hot, five-point victory in Atlanta, it would be understandable for the Lakers to be feeling pretty good about themselves. Bean’s 24 shots per game see no decline in sight, but at least they doubled their win total in a single game, albeit against an Eastern Conference team. Who would really test the purple-and-gold? It would be their very next opponent, of course: the Houston Rockets, featuring the efficient flop artist James Harden and perhaps the most hated man in the NBA (certainly one of the most hated in Los Angeles, after maybe Ariel Pink and Madison Bumgarner), the Dwightmare.
This was the team which had beaten the Lakers on opening night in the Staples Center by a count of 108-90. Animosity flared. Kobe called Dwight Howard “soft.” If not for our anointed hero, Kobe may have shot the Lakers right out of the game. Fortunately, Swaggy P kept Kobe tempered, shooting 6-15 from the field for 16 points. He and Kobe co-led the team in +/- at +9. The Lakers won 98-92. In the game, we call that “poetic justice.”
Do you see a pattern, reader? Do you detect the common thread?
3. Nick Young does not have any assists this season, but that doesn’t matter: In the game against Houston, Kobe put up 7 assists and hauled in 5 rebounds. Boozer and Jordan Hill both had double-doubles. Hell, Ed Davis pulled down 11 boards himself. The Lakers were cohesively acting as a real-life basketball team. What has Nick Young done in two games to contribute?
0 assists. Not a single one.
Not that that matters, of course, when you’re throwing the rest of the team swag at every moment. It’s almost criminally unfair to have a player like Nick Young on your roster, bombing shots and constantly exuding confidence. What he has done to the Lakers, our former dystopian heroes, is remind them that they are the Lakers, and suddenly they are a relatively productive squad. Never mind that he might be the reason they win their way out of a top-5 lottery pick; for now, let us all bask in the glory of Mr. Iggy Azalea, Swaggy P.
AND-1: DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis battle during the fan-voted NBATV game of the week, highlighting national TV issues: In one of the best games thus far this season, the two Kentucky products traded baskets, blocks and rebounds during the Pelicans’ 106-100 victory over the Kings. It was NBATV’s fan-voted game of the week, and it showed the fans to be objectively reasonable human beings. These two teams are among the best to see night-to-night, yet they combine to play only seventeen games on national TV this season. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Los Angeles Lakers, predicted to be one of the worst teams in the league (prior to the arrival of Nick Young, of course), get 28 shots on television. Beyond Swag and Bean, the Lakers are not much of a live basketball option. Commissioner Adam Silver ought to take a page from the NFL’s book (this is almost certainly the only time I will say that) and enable flex scheduling for the NBA. That would save us from watching a Lakers/Celtics game in mid-February.