Saturday, December 21, 2013
Young's swaggy ways rubbing off on L.A.
By Dave McMenamin
LOS ANGELES -- In the six seasons that Pau Gasol has been teammates with Kobe Bryant, I've never seen him mimic the "Mamba Face" and jut out his lower jaw after a big play.
Nick Young had a team-high 25 points off the bench against the Timberwolves and was 4-for-6 from 3-point range.
But there Gasol was Friday, in the fourth quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' 104-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, running back down the court after hitting a 3-pointer looking like Nick Young with his arms straight down at his sides and three fingers splayed on either hand to celebrate doubling the Lakers' lead from three to six with less than four minutes left in the ballgame.
He was doing his Swaggy P impersonation.
"He has that quality, that gift, of getting people going, in a good mood and I was happy that he rubbed off on me a bit," said Gasol, who neared a triple-double with 21 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists of his own but was more than happy to be talking about Young.
Gasol is not the only one Young is having an influence on.
"He rubs off on me and makes me happy, I know that," said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni. "There's no doubt and he's done it a few times. When we have a shootaround and the energy's down, he's 'swaggy' out there and he feels it and he starts 'swaggin' or something and he starts going and he gets everybody's energy up. And it's not a silly energy -- and sometimes you have that -- it's a good, positive fun.
"OK, it's in the morning, it's 10 o'clock, we're on the East Coast and it's 7 o'clock in Los Angeles, but you know what? Swaggy's out there doing his thing and he's dunking and yelling at the assistant coaches and it gets everybody up."
Of course, Young's energy wouldn't have nearly the same effect if he didn't raise his game as well, and Friday's performance against the Wolves served as a sizzle reel of what he is capable of: a team-high 25 points on 9-for-14 shooting, including 4-for-6 from 3 (with a 4-point play mixed in for good measure), 4 assists (when his career average coming into this year was only 1.0 assists per game), one game-changing charge drawn in the second half (a reminder of that game-saving offensive foul he sacrificed his body for in Detroit earlier this season) and five turnovers (a reminder that there's never a dull moment when Young is on the court, for better or for worse).
It was the 12th consecutive game of double-digit scoring off the bench for Young, whom D'Antoni has started to trumpet as a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year award contender.
And Young's postgame scrum with the media showed how he rubs off on his teammates even when they're not on the court.
As Young stood in front of his locker wearing a black varsity-style jacket with swagged-out patches on it (a teddy bear wearing sunglasses on one arm, a $ symbol on the other, the NFL shield modified to say JOY over his chest, etc.), a gold necklace with a "Super Mario Brothers" star hanging from it and a folded-up hunter-green bandana around his head ("I was Swaggy Rambo today," he explained), Xavier Henry emerged from the showers and started to get dressed next to the crowd that Young had attracted.
"The story today was X got his 19 shots," Young said when asked about Gasol breaking into Swaggy Pau as Henry tossed a towel at Young's face.
To which Henry responded: "Yo, don't bring attention to me while I'm trying to get dressed, dawg!"
Young continued to hold court, bragging about how the charge he drew should put him in the running for Defensive Player of the Year -- until a reporter asked about the award he actually has a shot of winning, the Sixth Man of the Year.
Henry: "He gets 'em up! He gets 'em up!"
Young: "Nineteen (referring to Henry's 8-for-19 shooting line)."
Henry: "Tell 'em your motto: 'When in doubt, shoot that thang!'"
Young: "I try not to think about [Sixth Man of the Year], but next game I'm going to try to get 19 like my man, X."
Henry: "OK, do it! You might get a bucket, finally."
And the two-man show continued when Young was asked about his three-finger celebration, which he happened to also flash after he made a long 2-point jump shot Friday.
Henry: "Why are you gonna hold three fingers down when you made a 2? That's what [the reporter] is really asking. Why do you hold three fingers down when you just made a 2?"
Young: "When did you become a hater? Damn. You is the hater of the year. I can't believe this."
Henry: "Come on, big dog. You know I love you."
It was a happy exchange between two players who came to L.A. this year looking for an opportunity to establish their careers, and who have flourished in Bryant's absence.
With the news of the fracture in Bryant's left knee coming down just a day before the Wolves game, the Lakers could have easily reverted back to being a team without an identity that was searching for someone to lead. Instead, they seemed to remember that it doesn't have to be so doom-and-gloom. And nobody embodies that notion quite like Swaggy P.
"That's how you should play," D'Antoni said. "This should be fun. They've got the best jobs in the world, other than maybe mine. It's fun, and if it isn't fun something's wrong. Then you go from there to just put your heart and soul into it, do everything you can and be a good teammate, and it's amazing what you can accomplish."
A healthy Bryant might be what the Lakers need to win a playoff series in the future, but Young is doing plenty to help them enjoy playing games in the present.
And in the moment, it feels about as good to watch as Young thinks he looks when he glances in the mirror when he wears a get-up like he was sporting Friday night.
"It's just him being extra-confident and getting everybody else in his state," Gasol said.