A Daily Babble Production
An hour before the Wizards and Knicks tipped off Wednesday night, Nick Young stood on the floor of Madison Square Garden and showed off his shooting touch.
Working out with three teammates and an assistant coach, the Wizards' second-year guard sailed through a set of cut-and-shoot drills with the ease of a man shooting alone on the playground. He moved gracefully, jumped lightly and shot the ball with a smoothness unmatched by anyone else on the floor. The only sign that he wasn't alone in the playground was the markedly less graceful dancing he did for his teammates after each shot swished through.
Around eight o'clock Eastern time, Nick Young started doing the same thing - minus the dancing - in a professional basketball game.
Granted, that game featured the Knickerbockers, one of the worst defensive teams in all of basketball, so that should be taken into account for something. And Nick Young's team is one of the five teams in the league that is worse defensively than the Knicks, so it wasn't a shock when his team wound up losing the contest. That's not so good.
But from the moment Young stepped on the floor in the middle of the first half, the shooting clinic was on. For most of the night, he lived from mid-range, usually making a quick move and taking a dribble or two to get himself the shot he wanted from 15 to 18 feet. Same relaxed stride into his shot as in his shootaround. Same smooth release and flick of the wrist. Same result. Bottom of the basket.
Every now and then, Young decided to add some variety to the repertoire, so he'd bomb from four or five feet behind the three-point line. And he'd hit, knocking down all three of his attempts from downtown. When he wanted to get in the paint, he did that, too, easily dribbling through the Knicks' defenders to free himself for baby jumpers around the cup. On one of the few occasions where the Knicks seemed to really challenge him, Young pulled up from about nine feet on the right wing, jump-stopped and up-faked, trying to draw a foul. The defender didn't bite. So Young ball-faked once more, leaned around the defender and banked in the shot while losing his balance.
It seemed as though he couldn't miss, and for the most part, he didn't do a whole lot of that. Young shot 13-for-17 from the field for the night and banged all four of his free throws. Despite coming off the bench and not taking a single shot in the first quarter, Young put up 33 points in 33 minutes, largely on the backs of a 12-point second quarter and a 15-point fourth quarter. As per his reputation, he didn't do much else, finishing with just two rebounds, two fouls, a turnover and nothing else in his stat line. In addition to the lack of defense and the fact that he didn't dish out any assists, it's hard to recall him passing the ball all that much at all.
But Nick Young averaged a point a minute in significant playing time at an efficiency level best described as insane. And it sure was fun to watch him shoot.
Programming note: The Celtics and Nets tip at 1 p.m. EST on Saturday, so we'll be coming at ya with an early morning Babble tomorrow. Looking forward to all of your thoughts as always.