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Nick Young has far exceeded expectations Lakers had for him

Young, who signed as a free agent in July, has provided a lot of entertainment with his style of play. He is also averaging a team-high 16.2 points a game.

December 31, 2013|By Mike Bresnahan

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Interspersed almost strangely among all the success is a handful of bad years in Lakers history, with 2013 near the top in unfulfilled promise.

There wasn't much for Lakers fans to cheer, be it the calamitous Dwight Howard season that ended with Kobe Bryant's torn Achilles' tendon and a first-round playoff sweep in April, or this season's ridiculously ho-hum record with seemingly everybody injured.

Nick Young has been a bundle of entertainment, though, a free-agent afterthought back in July who makes any game amusing for better, for worse, for whatever.

He's prone to missing a lot of shots, and takes plenty of questionable ones, but he's one of the few Lakers who can create his own shot. And he has a semi-catchy nickname to match his free-spirited personality.

Young has exceeded the Lakers' expectations "by far ... not even close," Coach Mike D'Antoni said Tuesday.

But in typical hard-luck Lakers fashion these days, Young can opt out of his contract in June by declining a relatively low player option of $1.2 million. The average NBA salary is about $5.5 million.

"I'm trying not to think so far ahead. It's only Game 32," Young said. "If we keep losing, we might all fall back into the same thing. We're all fighting and that's all I can do right now is stay focused on the court."

Young is averaging a team-high 16.5 points after scoring 25 against Milwaukee on Tuesday night. He is shooting 42.6%, slightly off his career mark of 42.7%.

He leads the league in four-point plays (four) and has worked steadily on his defense. If only he didn't loft a handful of wild shots seemingly every game.

"Shot selection is obviously something he'll keep working on but you don't want to damper what he has," said D'Antoni, who glowed when asked about Young. "His ability to be able to focus in on the defensive end and really try to get better there has been great. And just his attitude, his spirit is great. There's a lot of good things there."

Young started calling himself "Swaggy P" two years ago while with Washington, and there was really only one way to find out what it meant.

"Just how I dress, how I carry myself. I just came up with the name," Young said. "A friend was like, 'I see you swagging.' I was trying to find another word for swag so I just I came up with the Swaggy and added a P on it.

"I don't even know my name any more. I'm in the mall, all I hear is, 'Swaggy P!' "

Then Young turned to teammate Jordan Farmar while being interviewed.

"Jordan here calls me Swaggy now, and I've known him 10 or 12 years."

To which Farmar quickly replied, "I call you Nick. I don't know what you're talking about." Farmar was laughing. It's hard not to when Young is involved.

But what does the "P" mean?

"It's a mystery," Young said. "I can't tell you that. One day I'll tell you."

He later hinted that it was tantamount to the "Prime Time" moniker former NFL star Deion Sanders gave himself. But he wouldn't call it an exact match. He's got to keep the intrigue alive.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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