Nick Young’s ‘swag’ going strong in Philadelphia

January 31, 2013
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(Matt Slocum/Associated Press)

Nick Young always hid his addiction to ink by sticking to the “business”
tattoos that were hidden under his jersey and could only slightly be detected up close. But last summer, Young decided to add some visible artwork to his left forearm: the Yankees’ NY logo surrounded by a huge star and the words, “In Swag We Trust.”

Young was educated in the intricacies of swagger by Gilbert Arenas — whose “swag was phenomenal” — and DeShawn Stevenson — who once described himself as “swaggy” — when he arrived in Washington in 2007. Before he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers in a three-team trade last March, Young gave himself the Twitter handle, “SwagyP,” and it has taken on a life of its own in his new home in Philadelphia.

While making his third consecutive start for the 76ers on Wednesday, Young was introduced as “SwagyP” to fans at Wells Fargo Center. After each of Young’s three three-pointers, the announced yelled, “SwagyP for three!” A few fans were even spotted walking around the concourse in T-shirts with his No. 1 and “Swaggy P” written on the back.

“Once coach started saying it,” Young said, referencing 76ers Coach Doug Collins, who has become a big fan of the former Wizard, “everybody started saying it, really.”
Young scored 18 points in helping the 76ers defeat the Wizards, 92-84, in his first meeting against his former team, connecting on two three-pointers in the third quarter and glaring angrily at Washington’s bench after each one. He flexed and mean-mugged after his second three-pointer and Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker nearly fell over laughing in their seats from the bench.

“I was talking trash the whole game. I can’t tell you what I was saying, though,” Young said. “I was just messing with some of the guys. Kevin, Cartier [Martin] over there. They was talking trash. The first shot I shot was almost an air ball, I was a little too hyped. But it’s good to get a win against your old team. It was cool seeing the guys.”

The reunion took a little longer than he expected. The Wizards had already concluded their season series with the Clippers before dealing him last season and before Wednesday, Philadelphia was one of two Eastern Conference teams that Washington had yet to face. Toronto is all that remains now.

“It’s been a long time,” Young said.

When Young walked on the floor to get warmed up before the game, he quickly got a reminder of how he’ll always have a playful, good-natured relationship with his ex-teammates and ex-coaches. Seraphin spotted Young getting ready to shoot and immediately fired a basketball in his direction, eliciting some laughs and an impromptu reunion at half court.

“Just like old times,” Young said with the laugh.

In his first season with the 76ers after signing a one-year, $6 million deal with them last summer, Young is averaging 11 points on 40.9 percent shooting, but he is also averaging a career-high 1.4 assists. He matched his season-high with four assists against the Wizards.

“Just starting to find myself on this team,” Young said. “A couple of ups and downs. Coach has been a little tough, but they’ve been on me all year.

I’m trying to figure it out. I’m learning. It’s kind of tough, but picking it up along the way, getting better. I’m in a good situation right now.”

Young has found his way into the starting lineup, replacing the injured Jason Richardson less than three weeks since he got his first DNP-Coach’s Decision in Houston. Collins praised Young for overcoming the adversity and responding with better play.

“Now he’s starting for us and playing terrific,” Collins said.

After spending his first 4 1/2 seasons in Washington, Young said it was actually difficult getting acclimated to the East Coast again after his trade to the the Clippers. “It’s cold,” Young said with a laugh. “I forgot how it was out here. I got used to being in L.A. Once I left after the lockout, I was only in D.C. for like two months. Being back in L.A., I was spoiled a little bit. But you know, I’m back on the East, trying to make a playoff run now.”

During his time in Washington, Young earned a reputation as a one-dimensional gunner but he also attracted attention with his unique hairstyles. He now sports something akin to a mohawk, something his teammate Royal Ivey compares to the video game character, Sonic the Hedgehog.

“It’s the 2013 cut. My SwagyP cut,” Young said.

Young tried to grow out his hair to compete with teammate and all-star center Andrew Bynum, whose awkward afro has garnered headlines since his brittle knees have kept him sidelined all season. Eventually, Young had to relent.

“Aw, man. Ain’t no competing with that. Have you seen that? He got me,”
Young said. “I tried but he started doing some…I don’t know what he been doing. But that’s Andrew. That’s how he’s been all year.”

Some of Young’s newfound maturity can be attributed to his 10-month old son, Nick Jr., who he calls, “Little SwagyP.” Fatherhood, Young said, has forced him to appreciate the small gifts while not sweating the small stuff.

“Aw man. It’s great. I was nervous at first. But seeing little dude, I’m going to try to make him say, ‘Daddy.’ His first word. Da da,” Young said.

“I’m in the house. I ain’t doing too much. I just want to be there for his first word. First time walking, crawling. All that. Most definitely, I really do believe it humbled me a little bit.”

But the swag in his mind, and tattoo on his arm never die.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · January 30, 2013