Nick Young buried the dagger, and then buried the hatchet.
After the highlight of the season — Young stealing a pass intended for Los Angeles Lakers teammate Lou Williams and drilling the game-winner in Tuesday’s 111-109 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder — the man known as Swaggy P turned to the camera and said, “I’ve got ice in my veins.”
If you thought you’d heard that line before from someone pointing to his artery, it’s because Lakers teammate D’Angelo Russell first dropped it after his dagger against the Brooklyn Nets this past March.
It’s not so much that Young borrowed the celebration from a teammate that was so interesting, but that that teammate was Russell. You may also remember the two had quite a beef, also dating back to last March, when Russell taped Young discussing his relationships with women who weren’t his fiancé. That video, of course, leaked, and Young’s engagement to rapper Iggy Izalea didn’t survive the fallout.
The 20-year-old Russell quickly apologized for his rookie mistake while understanding it would take time to earn back his teammate’s trust. True to form, some six months later, Young publicly defended Russell and conceded, “We’ve already been working it out. It is what it is. I can’t be mad forever.” Still, there had to be a significant gap between, “Hey, man, we’re cool,” and actually being so cool with a guy who may have broken up your forthcoming marriage that you share the same ice in your veins.
Somewhat surprisingly, Young remained a Laker as the franchise turned the keys over from Kobe Bryant to young superstars in the making Russell and Brandon Ingram under new coach Luke Walton. Any locker room divide from last year’s miserable 17-win season appeared to be bridged as Russell and Young played key roles in the team’s 7-7 start. Then, Young welcomed Russell back into the trust tree with his “ice in my veins” homage, fittingly after he stole some shine from another teammate.
As most L.A. love stories end, the denouement of their breakup turned makeup began with one whispering sweet nothings into the other’s ear. “D-Lo whispered in my ear in a timeout and said, ‘I bet you won’t do the ice in my veins,'” Young told NBC Los Angeles, “and I said, ‘I’ll do it for you.'”
The reaction from Russell, resting his sore left knee on Tuesday, was the warm embrace afterward no one saw coming when even Young buried their relationship along with his own career prospects.
“I thought for sure I’d probably get bought out or traded or just cut, period, and I’d have to try out somewhere,” Young told ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes this week. He added, “I was like the hand out the grave. I’m still here. I’m just going to keep fighting, keep going.” Sounds like a guy with ice in his veins.
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Following last night’s game, Russell and Young are now averaging a combined 30.4 points, 6.1 assists and 6.1 rebounds as L.A.’s starting backcourt. Ask yourself if that seemed possible eight months ago.
With the win, Walton’s young charges pulled even with the Thunder at 8-7 for the sixth seed in the Western Conference, quite the statement two months after many dismissed Russell’s preseason guarantee that “this Lakers squad will most definitely be a playoff team.” Maybe that’s because some folks figured there would still be too much bad blood between Russell, Young and the rest of a broken team. Guess we just didn’t realize the Lakers replaced that bad blood with ice in their veins.
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