Nick Young was willing to veto his no-trade clause and accept a deal to only two teams, with the Los Angeles Clippers being one of them. So when the Washington Wizards shipped him to one his hometown teams at the trade deadline, Young, a former standout at Southern California, could only describe it as “a dream come true.”
Departing the dysfunction of the woebegone Wizards and joining a team that is in the Western Conference playoff race was also a welcome change for Young. During his introductory news conference on Saturday, Young told reporters in Los Angeles that his former team was “going through turmoil” and likely needed to complete the three-team trade that sent him to the Clippers, JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf to Denver and brought back Nene, Brian Cook and a 2015 second-round pick.
“We was losing and it was a tough situation,” Young said. “We kind of felt it in the air something was going to happen. To be here in the atmosphere of winning is a different feeling. I have to adjust fast. Washington wasn’t going to be in the playoffs. I had to cancel some plans going into the offseason.”
The Clippers (25-18) have the fourth-best record in a wide-open Western Conference, but have enough talent in all-stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to give Young his first taste of the postseason since his first season with the Wizards.
“My rookie year, it was a crazy atmosphere,” Young said. “Even though I didn’t get a chance to play that much, just being there, seeing it, I always wanted that feeling. I always wanted to play in something like that. The opportunity is here and I just have to take advantage.”
Since the Wizards lost in six games to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008, Young was a part of teams that went 77-210 and had developed into a nightly punch line on ESPN, with a seemingly endless blooper reel. Young had a few moments this month, with him losing the ball over the stanchion in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers, dribbling himself dizzy and falling in San Antonio and having another layup attempt turned into a turnover when Dallas guard Rodrigue Beaubois stole the ball from him while in the air.
“It was tough because every other night, it was ‘Not top 10.’ We was the laughing stock,” Young said. “It was frustrating. It can cause tension between players and everything. We needed a new look. This was great.”
Back home, Young won’t have the challenges most newly traded players have of trying to find his way around town. But he will have to adjust to calling Staples Center home. “It’s different. I am usually just coming here as a visitor. One game and I’m out. I’ve got to adjust to knowing that I am not leaving right now after this.”
Young was the Wizards’ leading scorer last season and the second-leading scorer this season and already knows what his role will be for the Clippers. They have struggled for an answer at shooting guard since Chauncey Billups went down with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon last month. Young will likely battle and eventually replace former Wizard Randy Foye as Paul’s backcourt mate.
“Somebody that can take the pressure off Chris Paul and Blake. With me knocking down shots, the lane will open up,” said Young, who averaged 16.6 points for the Wizards.
Young also believes being on the Clippers will give him a chance to change his reputation and dispel some notions about his game. “I don’t get so much credit for my defense. I am an offensive threat, but I can play ‘D’ with the best of them,” he said.
Young was filled with angst in New Orleans on Thursday, as he felt a move was going to be made, but wasn’t certain that Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld was going to trade him to a place where he actually wanted to go.
“Going to shootaround, I didn’t know whether to take my pregame nap or pack my stuff up and get ready to go. It was a crazy atmosphere. I knew something was going to happen, but I didn’t really think this was happening,” Young said. “It is a great feeling. Coming back to family, playing for a great team, a contender, you can’t wish for much better than that.”