Sunday, April 6, 2014
Toll of season weighing on Nick Young
By Dave McMenamin
LOS ANGELES -- For a guy who showed up to work on a Monday morning a couple of weeks ago sporting a smile and cracking jokes despite having his home burglarized the night before, it was pretty striking to see Nick Young on the bench during Sunday's 120-97 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers so fed up he had to bury his face in a towel.
His Los Angeles Lakers, the hometown team he always dreamed of being a part of, were en route to their 52nd loss of the season, tying the 1974-75 squad for the most single-season losses in franchise history with five games still to go.
His left knee, which had already caused him to miss 16 games because of a non-displaced fracture and bone bruise, had given out on him again.
His sunny demeanor had dissipated. His patience all but disappeared.
Even for a normally positive player such as Nick Young, the weight of this tough Lakers season is taking its toll.
"It was a little bit of everything that was going on," Young said after the game, describing his rock-bottom moment. "Pain, everybody getting hurt, just how the season's been a little frustrating. But at the end of the day, we just got to keep our heads up and go out there and fight. We can't give up now. Even though we're losing, we still got to battle."
The problem with Young trying to salvage the situation by sprinkling some patented Swaggy P optimism on it is that even he admits that the Lakers' battleship has already been hit and is taking on water at a rapid pace.
"I'm just trying to go down with the ship," Young said, explaining his motivation to get back in the lineup and drag his left leg up and down the court in the handful of meaningless games L.A. has left on its schedule.
The quote evokes memories of another awful team, the 1981-82 New York Knicks that went 33-49. When those Knicks were on the midst of their struggles, Micheal Ray Richardson summed it up with one of the most infamous lines in NBA history, telling reporters that "the ship be sinking."
While there is some nobility in Young's notion to want to be there for his teammates and his fellow native Los Angelinos who can't bear to see the purple and gold tarnished, it's getting harder and harder for the Lakers to keep up the charade trying to instill meaning into what's left of his "shamockery" of a season (to borrow another infamous line uttered by coach Mike D'Antoni last season).
Heck, D'Antoni all but conceded Sunday's game before it even started, knowing full well that he had only nine healthy bodies on his bench coming into the matchup with a Clippers team that had routed the Lakers by an average of 42 points in their previous two meetings this season.
"They know they're up against a mountain today," D'Antoni said before the game.
And the Lakers have proven far better at falling than they have been at climbing this season.
Like Young, however, D'Antoni has done his best to keep things as light as he can with the dark days coming so frequently.
"You got to be careful because you get in these situations, it doesn't help to swing wildly and just take everybody down," D'Antoni said. "You just got to get through it. You got to look for small victories. You got to look to the bright side of things and understand that it's not pleasant for anybody to go through and nobody wished this on anybody, but we got to band together and do the best we can and get to the next day and then live to fight another day, if that happens. You can't control the future, but you can control what you do today."
So D'Antoni, a coach on the hot seat, and Young, a sure-to-be free agent once he opts out of his current deal, will go down with this Lakers ship hand in hand, like captain and first mate.
They both know that this could be their last voyage with the Lakers.