Nick Young

Warriors embrace playing second fiddle to Kobe for one final night

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AP

Warriors embrace playing second fiddle to Kobe for one final night

OAKLAND -- The NBA’s No. 1 road attraction will be reduced to fine print on the marquee Monday night in Los Angeles.

Sure, the house will be packed when the Warriors invade Staples Center. It’s the hottest ticket in the league this season, a gala evening that undoubtedly will receive Hollywood embellishments, searchlights for sure and maybe even a red carpet.

It’s Kobe Bryant Night at Staples Center. Both of the legend’s jersey numbers, 24 and 8, are being retired. So while the Warriors are there for the business of defeating the current Lakers, they’ll also be carrying memories of the past.

Win or lose, they will have a chance to enjoy the halftime ceremony. Lakers president Jeanie Buss extended the invitation Saturday, and Warriors coach Steve Kerr plans to accept it.

“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.

“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”

Said Nick Young, a former teammate Bryant with the Lakers, of witnessing the ceremony: “That would be dope.”

Most of the Warriors have competed against Bryant, though Kevin Durant and Young have closer associations. Bryant and Durant over time formed a relationship as members of the league’s unofficial superstar club.

Durant has a particularly bittersweet memory from his rookie season with the Seattle SuperSonics in 2007-08, the year Bryant captured his only MVP award.

The Lakers took a 123-121 victory in overtime in Seattle and Durant’s memory of Bryant’s evening -- 48 points, 44 field-goal attempts, game-winning shot -- were perfect. Yet Durant came away feeling he had learned a more valuable lesson.

“It was my first taste of fourth-quarter basketball in the NBA, and (Bryant) fouled me all of the way up until I got the ball,” Durant recalled. “It was a blatant foul, and the referee just stared at him, looked at him, and didn’t call it. I was like, that’s what happens when you’re Kobe and you can do that stuff.

“It was a level I knew I had to get to, and that’s what made me realize that there’s certain players on different levels, and that you have to wait to get to that point. It made me realize it early with Kobe. So it was a great early lesson for me.”

Young, who spent three seasons as Bryant’s teammate in LA, recalled Bryant’s pointed jabs at teammates, unwillingness to tolerate fools and a semi-playful side of the man nicknamed Mamba.

After Bryant’s memorable final game -- a 60-point performance in a 101-96 win over the Jazz on April 13, 2016 -- Young approached Bryant with a pair shoes in hopes of getting an autograph. They were the wrong brand.

Kobe was a Nike guy, Young came with Adidas.

Bryant flipped the shoes into the trash bin.

“That’s Kobe,” Young said, grinning. “I knew something like that was going to happen if I went to him with some Adidas.

“But he did sign some Nikes that I had. And I have that stat sheet.”

Durant, having joined the MVP club in 2014, saw his relationship evolve to the point where they were dinner companions on Bryant’s last trip to Oklahoma City in 2016.

“The stuff we were talking about was next level, just what he wanted to do when he was done playing, his visions as a businessman, how he wanted to leave his mark as a basketball ambassador,” Durant recalled. “There was so much we talked about, and it made me appreciate his intelligent mind.”

Bryant retired as the league’s No. 3 all-time scorer (33,643 points), just ahead of Michael Jordan (32,292) but behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928). Bryant is a five-time NBA champion who was selected for 18 All-Star games. He is a lock to enter the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

And now, 20 months after he retired, his jerseys will be raised into the rafters at Staples Center.

“Kobe is obviously one of my favorite players, one of the best players to play this game,” Young said. “I know I had a chance to play with him, so I would want to see his number go up there.”

For one night, as a retired legend gets top billing, the Warriors don’t mind merely blending into the scenery.

Nick Young looking forward to talking trash to Lakers: 'Trying to kill them'

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USATI

Nick Young looking forward to talking trash to Lakers: 'Trying to kill them'

Nick Young is looking forward to tonight's matchup in Los Angeles.

For the first time, he will face his old team -- the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I'm going in trying to kill them guys (laughing)," Young recently told the Bay Area News Group's Mark Medina. "It's gonna be fun. I'm gonna be talking trash and just having fun."

In July 2013, Young signed a free agent contract with the Lakers.

After averaging 17.9 points per game and shooting nearly 39 percent from deep, he was rewarded with a 4-year deal worth over $21 million.

Last summer, he opted out of the final year of the contract -- $5,668,667.

"LA is still home for me. Still a dream come true to play for your hometown team," Young said. "It was dope. It also had some bad times too. The first year was good and my last year was good.

"Came in with a bang and left with a bang."

Young ended up signing for $5,192,000 with Golden State.

Over the Warriors' last 10 games, he is averaging 8.3 points and shooting over 45 percent from the field.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Warriors awaiting 3-point spark from the bench: 'It’s harder than I thought'

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USATSI

Warriors awaiting 3-point spark from the bench: 'It’s harder than I thought'

The Warriors took a chance in July. They gambled, hoping to fix a weakness that was clearly apparent even as they were racing to a championship last season.

Maybe they did. But nine games into this season there is no such evidence.

The Warriors still lack 3-point shooting off the bench, an issue they figured would be remedied with the offseason signings of veteran guard Nick Young and veteran forward Omri Casspi.

The Warriors rank 29th -- next to last -- in 3-point makes off the bench this season, which is precisely where they finished last season.

They averaged 2.1 3-point makes per game last season; they’re at 2.2 so far this season. Only the Knicks’ bench, at 2.1, is making fewer.

Young delighted the coaching staff and the Oracle Arena crowd on opening night, making 6-of-7 treys while playing 26 minute. In eight subsequent games he has played 66 minutes and made a total of six.

Young was hired a 3-point specialist -- he shoots more 3-pointers than two pointers -- yet he already has fallen behind second-year guard Pat McCaw as a backup wing.

“Right now, I’m going to be going to Patty,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters Thursday night after a win at San Antonio. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t change. He’s clearly played well and earned it. He’s got a year in our system. He understands it. He does a lot of good stuff for us. He’s earned minutes and he’ll keep playing.

“But Nick’s going to play, too. It’s just a matter of time. He’s got to stay with it.”

Casspi has been limited to six games while battling ankle sprains and has made one triple in 40 total minutes.

Neither vet can expect much more playing time in the immediate future. In addition to Young losing his battle with McCaw, minutes that might go to Casspi are being absorbed Andre Iguodala and Jordan Bell.

“Patrick has really stepped up his game and become an important piece for us,” Kerr said. “And Jordan, we’re just going to keep trying to get him out there as often as we can in key situations, to get him used to it.”

Iguodala, whose 3-point shot is streaky, has made two so far. McCaw has made three, with two coming Thursday night in the win at San Antonio.

Young concedes he is finding it difficult to make the adjustment from a starter playing 26 minutes a game with the Lakers last season to a reserve simply hoping to break a sweat.

“It’s harder than I thought, just trying to figure out when I’ll be getting in,” he told NBC Sports Bay Area this week. “I’m starting to get used to some of the thing, getting used to the guys a little bit. But I’m still working on the best way to come off the bench.”

There is plenty of time for improvement, and it likely will come. But the early results are not at all what the Warriors were looking for with their offseason shopping.