As Nick Young goes, so do the Washington Wizards


The 17.5 points per game Nick Young is averaging this season is slightly more than his average last year. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
February 19, 2012

Nick Young was wandering through the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in a leather jacket, baseball cap, flip-flops and socks on Saturday when some guests of the Latif-Sidoiq wedding noticed the Washington Wizards’ starting shooting guard. Some of the guests were alums of Arizona and Arizona State and talked trash to the former Southern California standout before eventually inviting Young to come inside.

Shortly after Young walked into the ballroom, the DJ announced his arrival and before he knew it, he was munching on chocolate cake, posing for pictures with the bride and groom, and even getting on the microphone to make a toast.

“I just said, ‘Congratulations to the bride and groom,’ ” Young said with a laugh. “I didn’t know nobody. I went in there and gave a speech. I was a wedding crasher. Will Ferrell. I didn’t have nothing else to do.”

As the Wizards get set to conclude their five-game road trip on Monday against the Phoenix Suns, Young wants to help his team record its first winning record on a road trip of five or more games in seven years. And he is focused on being more consistent and crashing his shooting slump the past two games, which he believes contributed to the Wizards losing to the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz by a combined 32 points.

“I know I got to step it up, because when I play good and we all jelling, we can win. I don’t want to leave John [Wall], [Jordan Crawford] and my teammates out there hanging like I have been the last two games,” Young said.

Young started the road trip ablaze, as he scored a combined 57 points and shot 66.7 percent (20 for 30) in wins over Detroit and Portland. He scored a season-high 35 points and matched a career high with seven three-pointers, on just eight attempts, against the Trail Blazers.

But when the team arrived in Los Angeles the next day, he missed his first nine shots and finished with just 14 points as the Wizards lost, 102-84. Two nights later in Utah, Young missed seven of his first nine shots and was held to just 10 points in a 114-100 loss. He has shot just 30 percent (9 of 30) in those defeats.

“The Blazers game. Once I hit my first two threes, it was over. I felt like I couldn’t miss that night. It’s those feelings you have certain nights,” Young said. “I was a little tired [in] the Clippers game. I didn’t have the legs. I’m trying to regroup myself, get some massages, treatment, so I’m going to get back. I was just trying to force it a little bit. I’ve got to relax out there and let things come to me.”

Young is the Wizards’ leading scorer for the second year, averaging 17.5 points (slightly more than his scoring average last season), but he has also served as a decent gauge for the team’s success this season. If he’s not on, neither are the Wizards.

His scoring and shooting have oscillated dramatically in wins and losses this season. In the Wizards’ seven wins, Young is averaging 23.7 points on 50 percent shooting, and 55.3 percent from the three-point line. In their 24 losses, he is averaging just 15.7 points on 38.7 percent shooting and 32.4 percent from long distance.

He has had six of his 13 20-point games in losses, but his worst scoring outing in a win this season was when he scored 15 in a lopsided victory over Toronto.

“That’s something we’re working on. I don’t have the magic button. If I did, I’d push that son of a [gun] every time,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “It’s just sometimes, if Nick has a slow start, he lets that affect the rest of the game. He’s had moments where he hasn’t done that, but he’s still regressed back and isn’t aggressive. And as I tell him, teams are going to have that understanding for the rest of your career: ‘We’ve got to get into Nick Young and not let him get going early. If he gets going early, he’s going to have a good game. If he doesn’t, he’s not going to have a good game.’ So that’s the reputation he has right now. That’s something you’ve got to learn to beat.”

Young has been able to overcome poor starts to have some strong finishes in wins and losses this season. He scored 19 of his 24 points in the final 17 minutes of the Wizards’ surprising win over Oklahoma City and he also had a 20-point fourth-quarter in a loss to Orlando.

“I know Coach is going to run some plays for me and try to get me going and John is going to try to get me going,” Young said. “You just have to stay in the game. That’s my thing. I’ve got to learn to keep staying in it. I’ve been doing good. Have to keep going.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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