Nick Young is a free agent for the first time in his career and may be forced to ponder leaving the only organization for which he has played. The Washington Wizards intend to retain him but realize that they will have competition from several teams, including Chicago, Denver, New Orleans, Sacramento and Phoenix, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
The Wizards, though, have the ultimate advantage because they can match any offer Young receives after tendering him a $3.7 million qualifying offer. NBA teams will have the opportunity to speak with players and make pitches to free agents starting at 10 a.m. on Monday and while Young does not have any face-to-face meetings scheduled, he is expected to speak with teams over the next few days.
“Anybody loves interest and when somebody recognizes your game,” Young’s agent, Aaron Mintz, said in a telephone interview. “Obviously, he’s worked his whole life to get to this stage. It’s exciting for Nick, it’s exciting for his family and I think the interest is great. For Nick, being able to have options is nice. He wants to win. The good part of it is, with him being restricted, the Wizards can keep him.”
Young averaged a career-high 17.4 points last season for the Wizards. After replacing Gilbert Arenas as the starting shooting guard last December, Young averaged 19.8 points and scored a career-high 43 points against Sacramento. “I think people recognize his improvement,” Mintz said. “I think Nick is looking to continue to take things to the next level. I think getting that starting time was a great thing for him. He got a great taste. I think his confidence is sky high. I saw him in the gym [recently] and he’s doing things that are real high-level basketball.”
Mintz said Young has been pleased with the direction of the Wizards and “feels a lot of good energy coming from out there.”
Wizards Coach Flip Saunders said he would like to see Young return. “As a team, anytime you have assets, you always want to try to retain your assets,” Saunders said, adding he would like Young to “become a more diversified player. He’s taken the one step. When I came here, all he had to do was play well, put it on the floor and try to get shots off. We changed it to the point where last year he became the catch-and-shoot-type shooter and not always have to put it on the floor all the time. Now we’ve got to have the situation where not always shoot it every time he touches it, but he’s also got to make plays for other people.”
Free agent swingman Josh Howard is also attracting attention around the league. The 31-year-old veteran is healthy after dealing with problems in his left knee the past two seasons and will visit San Antonio on Tuesday. He also plans to visit Chicago, New Jersey and Washington, though the dates haven’t been set, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
Teams are not allowed to make any written or oral agreements until Friday, when training camps open around the league.
Wizards forward Andray Blatche has been working out the past few weeks with local trainer Joe Connelly and expects to be ready when camps open. But he admitted last week that the strained right shoulder he suffered last March hasn’t fully recovered. “Shoulder is about 75, 80 percent. It’s still getting better,” Blatche said. “It’s a process. I’m in good shape. By the time I get done working out with Joe and going into training camp, I should be ready.”
Blatche was forced to miss the first week of training camp last season after dealing with a broken right foot. He struggled with his conditioning for most of the season, which was considered a disappointment though he averaged career-highs with 16.8 points and 8.2 rebounds.
“He had a good year, it was just his health. He wasn’t healthy. Anytime you have a player that’s not healthy for the beginning, it’s going to always catch up to him,” Saunders said. “He’s had a very good summer, he’s healthy, as healthy as he can be. He’s coming in with the right attitude. I really believe Andray, how his mind is right now is the most positive it’s been in the time that I’ve been here.”