Back in April, InsideSoCal.com’s Mark Medina reported that Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Nick Young—Swaggy P, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing—would forgo his $1.2 million player option and test free agency.
And while Young has consistently maintained his first choice is to return to the Lakers, he hadn’t gone so far as to say he’d do it at a discount.
Medina’s interview features a number of interesting quotes from Young, who recently returned from a vacation in Cabo, Mexico, we can only assume was spent hanging out at the local public library:
It depends how much the discount is. But as a player, everyone wants a place they feel comfortable at. I feel comfortable in L.A. But I can’t keep taking these discounts. I need a raise a little bit. But if it’s for the right cost and they’re bringing in players and I fit into the rotation, then I’ll probably take a pay cut.
Young is sure to receive his fair share of offers, all of which will doubtless be for more than his comparatively paltry payday last season.
But beyond roots and deep pockets, the Lakers offer Young something few other teams can—a blank slate of a roster desperate for some semblance of continuity and stability:
I think I could stick to my same role and help out Kobe. He has to come out of the game sometime. If they get another good player, they have to come out of the game sometime. I’ll be their Jamal Crawford. The Clippers have a sixth man of the year. The Lakers need to have one too.
There is, however, a flip side to this logic, as Basketball Insiders’ Yannis Koutroupis recently illustrated:
The Lakers have their sights set on making big splashes this summer, though, and retaining Young at a higher rate doesn’t exactly guarantee marked improvement. Kobe Bryant is going to be back next season; a lot of the minutes and shots that Young is getting now will go to him. If the Lakers believe he can excel in a smaller role and keep him at a reasonable increase, they’ll extend the offer. If not, they’ll thank him for all his help during this tumultuous season, but let him go onto the next step in his career.
The Lakers read all of this stuff, of course. As such, they know Young would prefer to stick around his native L.A. Whether that means they’ll try to get him on the cheap—to use his nostalgia for home against him—remains to be seen.
Regardless of whether or not they bring Young back, the Lakers are facing yet another season of frustrating flux. How will Kobe’s body hold up? What about Steve Nash? Who else will they get to round out the roster? Who’s going to be their coach, for crying out loud?!
Young is no long-term solution—even as a scoring backup. But as a stopgap in a season whose only real purpose may be as a bridge between superstar cores, you could certainly do a lot worse.