Nick Young's shooting woes mirror Wizards' problems on the road

In his last 11 games, Nick Young, right, is averaging 23 points at home but only 12.8 points on the road.
In his last 11 games, Nick Young, right, is averaging 23 points at home but only 12.8 points on the road. (Nick Wass/associated Press)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 10, 2011; 12:30 AM

Nick Young locked arms with Charlotte Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson and wouldn't let go. Henderson tried to walk away, but Young followed, fully attached. Young then got face-to-face with Henderson and had a few words for him before teammates and referees separated the two. Henderson turned his back and raised his arms afterward, while Young had to be calmed down by Andray Blatche.

"I was trying to get myself going, get my teammates going, get them fired up," Young said of his exchange with Henderson in the second half of the Washington Wizards' 104-89 loss on Saturday at Time Warner Cable Arena. "We was being bullied. They was trying to play too physical; I had to let him know, relax a little bit."

The Wizards (9-26) were headed toward their 18th straight road loss to start the season, and Young was clearly frustrated.

He made his first shot, one of those patented, lean-back jumpers, which usually signals a decent game. But for the rest of the night, Young struggled to make shots, and was even worse while trying to set up his teammates, as he threw a pass behind JaVale McGee that would've been a sure fast-break dunk and tossed another over-the-shoulder pass out of bounds and to no one in particular.

Young finished with just seven points, the second time in the past three road games that he failed to score in double figures. It also continued what has been a troubling trend for Young, who has been a completely different player inside and outside Verizon Center this season.

"I always come out there with confidence, trying to play the right way. I just couldn't knock down shots. Couldn't get into a rhythm. That's what happened, you know," Young said after missing five of his eight attempts against the Bobcats. "It's tough, because, it's like we play a different game. We've got to find a way to overcome this. It's tough. But I'm going to find a way to get through it."

When describing the Wizards' road woes this season, Coach Flip Saunders likes to talk about the "evolution" of the team, but that process also includes the development of individual players. And, while Young has made dramatic improvements in his fourth season, bum-rushing his way from seldom-used reserve to starting go-to guy, the next step in his progression is being able to produce regardless of the venue.

Overall, Young is averaging a career-high 15.1 points - 17.3 points at home and 13.2 points on the road - but the disparity in his production has become much more glaring since he was inserted in the starting lineup following the Gilbert Arenas trade.

In the past 11 games, all starts, Young is averaging a team-leading 18.4 points, but he is clearly thriving more in his home whites. In six home games, Young is averaging 23 points, shooting 47.4 percent from the field, and the Wizards are 3-3. In five road games, Young is averaging just 12.8 points, shooting 37.3 percent from the field, and the Wizards have lost all but one of those games by double digits.

Young actually shoots better from beyond the three-point line on the road, connecting on 46.7 percent (7 for 15) compared with 40.6 percent (13 for 32) at home.

"I hate to keep on saying it, but young players, there's a maturation," Saunders said. "It's easy to play at home, because you have a comfort level, the fans will give you energy, they'll try to get you in the game. At home, you make a shot, the crowd goes crazy. On the road, you make a shot and the crowd boos you. The maturation part of being a young player is learning how to do that on the road. Sometimes, you got to keep pounding away at it."

Since Dec. 1, Young has failed to score at least 10 points four times, all on the road, in the 18 games in which he played.

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