CATCHING UP WITH NICK YOUNG
PHILADELPHIA – A little over an hour before his old team faced his new team, 76ers swingman Nick Young was greeted by a familiar face.
Clippers broadcaster Michael Smith walked onto the court where Young was shooting 3-pointers and shook hands with the effervescent one-time Clipper. Young, who played 33 games including 11 in the postseason, with Los Angeles last season, rested the ball on his hip and chatted with Smith for a minute.
His hair is a little longer and the name emblazoned across the front of his jersey is different. But the smile and endearing persona remain. He’s still Swagy P.
Doug Collins referred to Young as “Swagy” twice in his pregame meeting with the media and Young, who scored 29 points in the game, said later that the nickname has become part of the lexicon within the organization and Philadelphia fan base.
“They even say it when I come out,” Young said. “It took over around here. I think they’ve got shirts and stuff, too.”
Young, who grew up near downtown Los Angeles, went by the nickname long before his tenure in the NBA. But it took on a life of its own with the Clippers after he was acquired near the trade deadline last season. Young’s ability to swing a game with his 3-point shooting and swing the tenor of a press conference with his sense of fashion, were on stage during his first experience on a winning team.
He was instrumental in the Clippers’ historic comeback win over the Memphis Grizzlies, nailing three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and strutting down the left sideline when his third one sliced what had been a 27-point Memphis lead to three with more than two minutes remaining.
“Nick I thought did a very good job for us,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We knew he could score the basketball. He’s got good size at his position. He can get his shot off. He’s a very good one-on-one player. He really helped us win the Memphis series.”
Young said he learned a great deal from the few months he played in his hometown.
“It was a great experience for me to be able to win,” Young said. “Just being on a team where they demand more out of you, you had no choice but to grow up out there. And I’d definitely say it carried over.”
That growth was something that his new head coach, Collins, noticed as well.
“He only had it for half a season out there with the Clips, but he was in such a losing environment for such a long time (with the Washington Wizards),” Collins said. “To get into an environment where guys are paying attention and working and being held accountable and all those kind of things. And we think Nick has grown a lot.”
Young is averaging 11.5 points per game (fourth on the team), shooting 36.1% from 3-point range in 45 games (11 starts) in his first season in Philadelphia.
“He’s one of the neatest kids that I’ve ever been around,” Collins said. “I think when you see him from afar he’s very misunderstood as a young man. When I saw him play I just saw oodles of talent.”
For Young, leaving Los Angeles, particularly after such a brief stay, was difficult.
“I was a little disappointed,” Young said of not coming back to the Clippers in the offseason. “But that was my second free agency, so I’d seen a lot. I knew once Jamal Crawford was on the books, he was a vet that had been around the block a couple times.
“It is tough. I’ve gotten more homesick [this season] because I was in L.A. for most of the whole year [in 2011-12].”