Xavier Henry and Nick Young Make Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni Look Genius

David MurphyFeatured ColumnistNovember 4, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 03: Xavier Henry #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots over Cartier martin #20 of the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center on November 3, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 105-103.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Just two nights after Xavier Henry got nine stitches in his head, he was the starting shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Atlanta Hawks came to Staples Center Sunday night. After being down 13 at the half, they managed to come back, falling short after a furious fourth-quarter drive. The Purple and Gold held on to win, 105-103, due in no small part to the switcheroo in roles, Henry for Nick Young.

You can either credit D’Antoni for pulling the trigger on the switch, or Henry and Young for leading their respective units in scoring. News came down before tipoff that D’Antoni had made the decision:

Lakers sideline reporter Mike Trudell reported that D’Antoni believed the move would all help restore Young’s confidence in his stroke, which has been falling short so far during the young regular season:

Henry has been showing athleticism and leadership since the preseason. He’s also one of the team’s better on-ball defenders, something Young’s not especially known for. Swaggy P’s always been more of freelance gunner—he can create his own shot and won’t hesitate to put it up. After the win, Young embraced his inner bench hero, according to Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News:

Henry brought in 18 points in an economical 26 minutes as a starter. More importantly, he went hard to the basket on several occasion, drawing fouls and shooting 6-of-8 at the charity stripe. As for Young, a surprisingly well-rounded game, with 13 points, four boards and four assists, all in 21 minutes.

With Kobe Bryant still out of action, the one-two shooting guard punch of Henry and Young is something that’s much needed.

Last season, Coach D’Antoni seemed to be searching desperately for answers. The musical chairs continued throughout the season, sometimes due to injury, sometimes through an unfamiliarity with a team that he inherited five games into the regular season. This year, D’Antoni has had the benefit of a full training camp and preseason. He’s still probing the possibilities of this younger wild-card roster.

The season’s still young, and there’s still apt to be curve balls along the way. New rumors, via Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld, point to a possible Steve Nash trade, something that wouldn’t be to D’Antoni’s liking. Nash finally looked crisp in action on Sunday, with 13 points, six assists, three boards and a steal.

Is D’Antoni genius after Sunday night’s call, or is it just hungry young guys stepping up to the plate? Four games in it’s hard to tell. The Lakers are at least staying in the hunt as a .500 team, until the Mamba returns.