Lakers guard Nick Young’s season may not have turned out the way he had envisioned it. His team finished the 2014-15 season with a 21-61 record (the worst in franchise history), shot a career-low 36.6 percent from the field, missed a total of 40 games—the final 28 of the season due to a small fracture in his left knee—plus feuding with coach Byron Scott for his charismatic persona.
But as Swaggy P prepares to return for his 10th NBA season, he’s also preparing for a short season guest “coaching” the Swag Champs—a team of local LA talent participating for a shot at $1 million in Ball Up’s Million Dollar Summer Challenge.
With no surprise, he entered the East Valley HS gymnasium in North Hollywood, CA this weekend in typical Swaggy P fashion: posing for pictures, signing autographs and interacting with fans before going full coach mode on the sidelines. Unfortunately, Young’s team took a devastating 85-66 loss in Week 1 and has five more weeks to prove themselves.
We caught up with Nick—who turned 30 and got engaged to Iggy Azalea earlier this week—to talk the offseason, NBA Finals, his coaching style and much more.
SLAM: First off, Happy birthday. What’s 30 looking like for Swaggy P?
Nick Young: Appreciate it! Man, I don’t know. It’s a new experience. I sat back in the house today and I was thinking, “I’m 30 now.” I gotta get on some grown man Swaggy stuff right now. [Laughs]
SLAM: You missed the last 28 games of the season with a fracture in your left knee. How’s the knee feeling now?
NY: It’s feeling good. I’ve been playing pick-up and working out a little bit. I feel all right.
SLAM: The Finals start tomorrow—Cavaliers or Warriors?
NY: I’m going with my man JR Smith. He representing all of us right now—people like me [laughs]. He was killing and that’s so dope. I think it’s going to be a tough series especially with Golden State balling and Stephen Curry. I think the Warriors have a good team now, but it’s something about them Cavs, man.
SLAM: Yeah, you tweeted that JR Smith was balling against the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals. Offensively, both of you have similarities. Do you agree with Smith’s statement about taking contested shots rather than open ones because they’re boring?
NY: Right? That’s me! I think I made more contested shots than open shots [this season]. [Laughs]
SLAM: Who do you think the Lakers should take at No. 2 in the Draft?
NY: That’s tough. I think they’re going to make the best decision. Whoever is available right there is a good pick. They’re most definitely going to make a great decision.
SLAM: It’s been a tough past two seasons for the Lakers, but with yourself, Kobe Bryant and Julius Randle healthy, and the No. 2, 27 and 34 picks plus free agency—are you excited?
NY: It’s going to feel great. I think it’s something the city needs. The No. 2 pick [is going to mean a lot] because they’ve shined the light on us and I think this summer is going to be a special summer for us.
SLAM: During the season, Byron Scott mentioned some flaws to your game like moving without the ball and your defense. Are those some things you’re going to really focus on improving this summer?
NY: Yeah, most definitely, especially if we get someone in free agency. I know I might have to play off the ball a lot. Hey man, I might have to get my JR Smith role on. [Laughs]
SLAM: You shot your lowest field goal percentage of your career and blamed it on the rim. Have you taken the rim out and treated her better like you said you were?
NY: Yeah, we went out to go eat and I took her out on a nice date. She’s doing all right now and I’ve been talking to her.
SLAM: Coaching in this tournament, which NBA coaches do you compare yourself to?
NY: I’m like a Pat Riley—like a GM/Coach. Or I might be Steve Kerr.
Photos via Getty Images, Ball Up