Normally, there's a brief bit of contact, a whole lot of jawing, a handful of shoves and teammate intervention to keep things from escalating.
However, when Young got into a tussle midway through the second quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' 121-114 loss on Wednesday night, the last part of the process never happened. Not for Young.
He took exception to a hard foul by Suns rookie Alex Len and traded shoves with the 7-footer. Then Len's teammate, Marcus Morris, gave Young a couple shoves. Young, perhaps looking for anyone closer to his size, moved down the line and threw something—an open-handed shove? a punch?—at Goran Dragic's face.
Young was ejected, but that's not the reason he was seething after the game.
"What I'm mad about is it was 1-on-5, I felt like," he said, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles. "If somebody [from the Lakers] would have got in the middle, everything wouldn't have escalated that much."
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni didn't see it the same way.
"You don't fight in this league," D'Antoni said. "It wouldn't help us to lose two or three more guys."
There's an argument to be made for both sides, and people willing to make those opinions known. Former Laker Robert Horry said that Young's teammates needed to get involved:
Robert Horry called out Ryan Kelly and Kendall Marshall for not coming to Young's defense (on TWC)— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) January 16, 2014
Then again, Horry is old school, so this might not have even qualified as a fight back in his day. But Horry wasn't the only one making that claim. Pau Gasol agreed that the Lakers didn't do enough for their scoring guard:
Pau: "Unfortunately we didn't get a guy in between Nick & the 3 or 4 guys that were going at him. Should have protected Nick there." (on TWC— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) January 16, 2014
The numbers game lends some credence to D'Antoni's point. The Lakers' roster has been decimated by injury and only eight players made an appearance Wednesday night.
If the Lakers had made a response, it needed to be a controlled one. They didn't have the bodies to afford another ejection:
I wouldn't want any other Lakers ejected or escalating the situation. But ensuring Young is okay & trying to calm him down is fine to do.— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) January 16, 2014
They already may need to come up with an emergency plan if the NBA deems Young's actions worthy of a suspension.
"We'll see what happens," Young said, per McMenamin. "It's up to the league and what they decide."
So, was it Young's fault for giving the league office something to decide? Or did his teammates really put him in a can't-win situation by not stepping in?
Nick Young just "liked" this photo on Instagram mocking Kendall Marshall for not having Young's back tonight: http://t.co/VCprajPwRd— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) January 16, 2014
Young "liked" another Instagram shot showing Marshall watching with hands on hips. Young has just now "un-liked" both photos.— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) January 16, 2014
Frankly, it doesn't matter how we see it. It only matters how the players view the event.
The reeling Lakers, losers of 12 of their last 13 games, can ill afford a locker room divided.