Rising Washington Wizards star Nick Young made a special appearance in the City of Falls Church last week, signing autographs and chatting with fans at the PNC Bank in the new Read Building on West Broad.
Young was retained for the event by the PNC Bank promotions department to help build the visibility of its new Falls Church branch. Branch Manager Alex Mereish said he was thrilled by Young’s friendly, smiling and laid back style of greeting his fans.
Young is in only his second year with the Wizards, having been drafted in 2007 after three years of stellar performance at the University of Southern California, located near to where he grew up.
His smooth moves and deadly shot became evident when he first participated for the Wizards in the NBA Summer League for rookies and first year players in Las Vegas in July 2007, where this writer first encountered and met him.
Now into his second season on the official NBA circuit, Young appears markedly more mature and reserved, due partly to the struggles he and his Wizard teammates have experienced this season, getting off to a 3-15 start.
“Last year, I was pressing too hard, too eager to make a big splash,” Young said. “This year, I am just happy to be playing in this league and making a contribution. I hope to be playing into my 30s.”
He said that injuries to center Brendan Haywood and all-star Gilbert Arenas have hurt the performance of the team on the court. Whereas Arenas is expected to return next month, Haywood will be out until at least March, he said, and his experience in the pivot is sorely missed.
Two young big men, Andre Blatche and Javale McGhee, are showing all kinds of promise, have tremendous athleticism, but still lack experience to contribute as strongly, defensively, as it is hoped they will, including by staying out of foul trouble, Young said.
Young sees himself mostly adding to the team’s offensive punch, to “get to the basket,” and has been getting added minutes on the court in recent games.
He said the sudden firing of popular coach Eddie Jordan last month came as a “complete surprise” to the team. “We all showed up for practice that morning expecting it to be business as usual,” he said. “We were stunned to hear the news when we got there.”
He said that there were no goodbyes. “We have had no contact with him,” he said, since his firing.
Young said that he felt bad for Jordan. He had a more relaxed style with the players than his interim replacement, Ed Tabscott, who’s been in the league for many years, the last few as director of player development for the Wizards.
Tabscott has been seen chewing out players and pulling them off the court quickly after bad plays.
Young told the News-Press that he’s had to adjust to the vastly-different lifestyle in the NBA, compared to his college experience.
“In college, every minute of your life is scheduled. You had classes, time for tutoring, time for practice and games. All very rigid and taking all your time,” he noted. “In the NBA, you show up for practice and the games, and all the rest of the time is your own. Nobody cares or pays attention to how you spend it.”
It adds up to a lot of “down time,” he noted, which he and his fellow young players, Blatche and McGhee, spend playing video games, mostly, and watching movies.
Young said he and the two other youngest players hang out together because the older players are mostly tied up with their married lives. Still, he said, his closest friend and confidant on the team is Arenas.
How are the Wizards going to turn the season around? To Young, it’s just a matter of working hard and gelling. Having Arenas, and later Haywood, back won’t hurt, either.