RICHMOND — Nick Young had a great camp, and now he’s getting rewarded for it with another chance to prove that he’s worthy of landing the starting shooting guard spot. When the Wizards conclude camp tonight with their preseason opener against the Memphis Grizzlies, Young will trot out with Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood.
On giving Young the nod, Flip Saunders said, “We’ll go with Nick to start with. Veteran players, DeShawn and Mike and those guys have been through a lot of these already, so it’s a good opportunity to have him get some good opportunity for the first time and bring those other guys along a little bit slower.”
Young, who has consistently stood out during training camp on both offense and defense, was surprised to hear the news, but excited at the same time.
“I was shocked,” Young said. “I’ve been working hard, but it’s starting to show a little bit. No because we’ve got some vets on teh team and I figured I’d be learning from Mike or somebody this year. But I appreciate it, and I’m happy.”
Young said he didn’t have much time to revel in the moment of starting, however, because Arenas quickly brought him back down to size.
“Then I’ve got Gil talkin’ trash,” Young said with a grin. “He said ‘Yeah, as fast as they say Nick Young, they can say Nick Young’s sub,’ So, I’ve got to deal with that all night.”
As Saunders said yesterday, the decision to start Young isn’t a reflection on who will land the full-time job. Instead, he wants to see how Young responds tonight, and expects to experiment with different candidates (DeShawn Stevenson, Mike Miller, possibly Randy Foye) at shooting guard throughout the preseason.
Saunders said although Arenas will start, he will proceed cautiously early on with the guard, and his minutues will be limited tonight.
“I’m not going to yo-yo him in and out,” Saunders said. “I might give him a good blow and that’s it. He’s gone nine practices now, whatever, 10 practices now in 7 days and did some things this morning for an hour and was on his feet alot, and I don’t want to keep on yo-yo-ing him. We still have three weeks [before the season opener].”
Saunders added that Arenas likely will play eight to 10 minutes tonight. The coach said Fabricio Oberto will be a game-time decision, and that he has yet to decide who else will have the night off.
Allen Iverson will not be playing tonight, suffering from a left hamstring strain.
Nick said he’s not disappointed he won’t have to go up against the Answer. “Naw, I’m not,” he said. “He’s got his braids back, so …”
Young will be going against fellow USC product O.J. Mayo, who the same summer that Young went pro, committed to the Trojans and took over as USC’s starting shooting guard. Young said he’s looking forward to seeing Mayo again, and that the two played against each other much of this summer.
Tonight’s game will not be televised, but will be broadcast in the D.C. area on the Wizards’ radio home 106.7 FM starting at 7 p.m. If you’re outside the radio range, you can listen on 106.7 The Fan’s web site.
— Mike Jones