COMMENTARY | For most of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers have looked like a team lacking an identity.
Without Swaggy P on Friday, the Lakers will be a team without personality, too.
For Friday's game against the Boston Celtics, the Lakers will be missing their "Swag" factor because Nick Young will be serving a one-game suspension for throwing a punch. This season, fans have praised the heavens that the man who nicknamed himself "Swaggy P" was parading his talent around Staples Center.
On Friday, everyone loses when the Lakers turn up to play the Celtics and Swaggy P is not allowed into the building.
Young has been a great teammate, a productive player and the most entertaining component of this Los Angeles Lakers' lost season. He has received high praise from his coaches, and the fans in Southern California celebrate his swagger on the court, his personality in the locker room and his style in the streets.
That entire package will be missing on Friday due to a widely discussed incident that occurred in Wednesday's loss to Phoenix. Young was off to yet another hot start, igniting the Lakers off the bench with nine points in 11 minutes. Then, a dirty and dangerous foul set off a fuse in the 28-year-old's head.
No one who has seen the video can honestly be upset at Young's immediate reaction.
He was viciously struck in the head after taking full flight. He was lucky to get up as quickly as he did. That foul was worthy of retaliation, and Young did not hesitate. His teammates, however, did.
After the game, Young expressed frustration with his teammates for not stepping up during the altercation. He had been hit with a savage cheap shot, and if a different group of guys had been on his side, Young's teammates would be serving the suspensions and Young would be playing on Friday in Boston.
Surely, Metta World Peace would have run to the scene.
One cannot help but lament the various ironic-sounding headlines that would have sprouted had World Peace trotted into that situation: "World Peace Escalates Violence;" "World Peace Strikes Violently;" or "World Peace Stops the Violence." That last one is probably the most ironic in the bunch.
Unfortunately, for Young, teammates Chris Kaman, Jodie Meeks and Kendall Marshall were far enough away that they did not feel connected to the conflict when it quickly ignited like a California wildfire in January -- yes, California is so warm in January that wildfires sporadically ignite in the coldest of winter months.
Ryan Kelly was the only Laker close enough to have a meaningful impact on the situation. When Young rose and the situation escalated, the skinny rookie out of Duke looked like a lost child in a crowded train station. Kelly is not a tough guy or even a pretend tough guy. Right or not, he's just not that guy.
Still, Young was right. No one had his back. He got himself out of the situation, but it cost him a one-game suspension.
Along with the suspension, Young was docked a one-game check. For those wondering, that came out to $13,499.29 in fines. Marcus Morris, the man who shoved Young into a corner so that he was under pressure to fight his way out, was fined $25,000. Alex Len, the rookie center who committed the ill-advised foul, was docked $15,000.
Financially speaking, the NBA sided with Young enough to provide him the most lenient of the three fines. In today's NBA, however, violent contact with another player's face instantly calls for a suspension. Young definitely made contact with Goran Dragic's face and after the game expressed regret at that particular act. Len's punishment seemed soft considering the hit he laid on Young.
Beyond finances, Young grew up a fan of the Lakers, and the suspension forces him to miss his first chance to play in Boston wearing the purple and gold Lakers jersey against the hated Celtics. The Lakers only play one game in Boston this season, so missing the rivalry game will likely hurt more than missing any other game on the schedule.
As a team, the Lakers were already hurting on guards. With Young suspended, the Lakers only had two guards available for Friday's game: Kendall Marshall at point guard and Jodie Meeks at shooting guard. Meeks was already playing as the backup point guard, and, now, no one was around to even play backup shooting guard.
As a quick reminder, Kobe Bryant, Xavier Henry, Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar are all out injured.
As news of the one-game suspension was breaking, the Lakers were announcing the signing of a new guard on a 10-day contract. Manny Harris was lighting up the NBA Development League with 30.6 points per game -- best in the D-league -- so the Lakers called him up and flew him out. He expects to be active and available against Boston.
With Harris, the Lakers have three guards against the Celtics. Worth pointing out, two of those guards were not in the NBA a month ago. Is it any wonder the Lakers have lost 12 out of the last 13 games?
Losing Young significantly hurts the Lakers' chances of breaking their current six-game losing streak, but a large segment of Lakers fans celebrate every loss as a better chance to win the NBA's draft lottery.
One would suppose there is a silver lining in nearly every situation, but try explaining that to the fans still tuning in to watch the Lakers play the Celtics on Friday.
Shahan Ahmed is a Yahoo Contributor in Sports and is a Los Angeles Lakers insider for NBC Los Angeles. He is based in Santa Monica and covers the Lakers at practices, shootarounds, games, and special events. You can follow Shahan on Twitter @ShahanLA.
- Sports & Recreation
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Nick Young
- Boston Celtics