Last season served as one of the worst periods for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe Bryant played a short six-game stint. Steve Nash, who in 2012 was supposed to bring the Lakers back to prominence, was a shell of his former self and only played in 15 contests. Even former Lakers Chris Kaman and Pau Gasol missed a good portion of the season. The season was topped off with a mismatched coaching scheme created by ex-coach Mike D’Antoni that made the Lakers one of the cellar dwellers of the Western Conference. Despite all the negativity on the Los Angeles Lakers though, Nick Young served as that rare glimmer of hope as the small forward became their leading scorer, and after a plethora of offseason mistakes in 2014, the team took a step in the right direction Monday by re-signing the eight-year veteran.
Young has had quite the sporadic NBA career to this point. During his first four seasons in the league, he served as a middle-of-the-pack player in Washington until his final year and a half, where he averaged 17 ppg before being shipped off to the Los Angeles Clippers. In his time with the Clippers, Young was put in a relegated role where he only averaged 9.7 ppg. His standing did not improve much when he signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia, where he averaged 10.6 ppg. Despite a failed couple of seasons, last year turned his career around by served as the leading scorer on the Lakers at 17.9 ppg with the absence of Kobe Bryant.
The Los Angeles Lakers are hoping that Young continues his stride at an age where he should be entering his prime. Seemingly, the signing of Young now is regarded as one of the few successful moves Los Angeles has executed in a disastrous offseason that was supposed to bring in a big free agent signing such as Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James or even Gordon Hayward. Worse yet, perennial big man Pau Gasol, while tempted to return to Los Angeles, packed his bags by electing to go East to the Chicago Bulls. Instead, Lakers received the blundering and ever-declining Carlos Boozer, whom Chicago amnestied to sign Gasol. Boozer, who, ever since his signing to Chicago four years ago, has been subject to harsh criticism, did not help his case this past season, when he put up record-low numbers second only to his rookie season with 13.7 ppg and 8.3 rpg.
Hollywood’s perennial team, simply put, has bombed this offseason with only a slight upgrade at the point guard position by bringing Jeremy Lin over in a trade from Houston. Nash, who is still contracted on the Lakers, is doubtful to make much of an impact this season. Bryant will give Los Angeles a shot in the arm if healthy, but the problem is that, while he states he is 100 percent and despite being one of the best players in the league, he could very well fall to injury again, especially considering that he will be 35 years old at the start of the season. This is why the Nick Young signing was integral to the Lakers, especially after Bryant’s backup Jodie Meeks (15.7 ppg) signed a more lucrative deal in Detroit. Young serves as that glimmering flash of light in Laker land. He is 29 and, if he accelerates his career forward, he may be that consistent player the Lakers need, particularly at the eventual time when Bryant retires after the 2015-2016 season most likely.
While he has the tools to become an All-Star, the 2014-2015 season will have to be a defining moment in Young’s career. If he is able to assist Bryant in carrying a lackluster squad with shallow depth to a playoff berth and cap off his career season of last year, he will prove to those around the league that he is worthy of his four-year deal. If he regresses or, worse, obtains an injury, he will merely be a flash in the pan of the larger part of a dark chapter in Lakers’ lore. For now, the Lakers have a chance to shape a promising forward who could lift the embarrassment of last season of their shoulder. It will be tough with a strengthening Western Conference, but for now the Los Angeles Lakers took a step in the right direction by re-signing their blossoming small forward Nick Young.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey