Nick Young sucked last season. And that's not just us saying that. You can look at his numbers for proof. He only started two games for the 17-65 Lakers and averaged less than 20 minutes per night. He also scored a career-worst 7.3 points per game while averaging a career-worst .339 field goal percentage. And top of all that, he had issues with head coach Byron Scott, issues with now former fiancée Iggy Azalea, and issues with rookie teammate D'Angelo Russell (as you're probably well aware, the latter two issues were related). It led many people to assume that the Lakers would part ways with Swaggy P in the offseason, and there was even some speculation that he might be out of the NBA altogether because of how bad he was last season.
The Lakers decided to keep Young, though, and while the 2016-17 NBA season is still, uh, young, he has been much improved through the first 14 games this year. He has started at shooting guard every game thus far, he has nearly doubled his points per game average to 14.1, and he has recorded a career-high .455 field goal percentage. He has done a complete 180 in a matter of just months and is a part of the reason why the Lakers are a respectable 7-7 right now.
So what changed for Young? He spoke with ESPN recently about his turnaround and credited much of his success to new Lakers coach Luke Walton. "Coach has given me the ultimate confidence and [his] believing in me, it makes me want to run through a wall for him," Young said. "It's unbelievable that a coach could come in and just change the whole mindset and the program. It's great."
Young also said that the lack of drama in his personal life has helped him focus on basketball. Without specifically referencing Iggy or Russell, he talked about how he's moved on from what happened in the past. "Unfortunate situations happened last year that made things worse," he said. "Once I had a chance to get past all of that, it's all about basketball."
When he was asked to pick the worst "unfortunate situation" he endured, Young said he couldn't do it. "Ah, man. I had a couple," he said. "Coach didn't play me for nine games. It was tough, it was tough. He was bringing people from the D-League up and playing them over me. It was hard, it was hard. It messed up my confidence."
And Young also admitted that even he was surprised when he found out the Lakers wanted to keep him this season. "I just didn't think I was going to be here," Young said. "I knew I was probably going to play somewhere, but I thought for sure I'd probably get bought out or traded or just cut, period, and I'd have to try out somewhere."
There's still a lot of season left, and for all we know, Young could fall back into his old habits and struggle again between now and the spring. But it's good to see him making headlines these days for the things he's doing on the court as opposed to the things he's doing off it.