- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2009

As the season continues for the Washington Wizards, so does shooting guard Nick Young’s roller coaster sophomore campaign.

Despite ranking ninth in scoring among second-year players at 10.4 points a game, Young has endured his share of ups and downs this season. After it appeared he would turn the corner as the Wizards headed into the All-Star break, Young is mired a four-game slump.

Young opened February on a promising note. He scored 17.0 points on 49 percent shooting in the first five games of the month in 28.6 minutes.

But on Feb. 11, Young went cold. He made three of 10 shot attempts and scored seven points in 31 minutes. In the first three outings after the All-Star break, his production dropped to 3.0 points on 20 percent shooting in 12.6 minutes.

“Nick Young is only a second-year player with tremendous offensive skills and talents, and he tends to go as his offensive game goes,” Wizards coach Ed Tapscott said. “He will as he matures, he will be able to handle the ups and downs of missing and making of shots. He works hard, he’s a great kid and he’ll always get a chance to go in there and show his stuff.”

It’s not the first slump Young has endured this season. He opened the year by posting double-digit scoring performances in his first eight games. Then came single-digit efforts in five of his next six games. Then came three high-scoring outings followed by six more low-scoring nights.

Young posted new career highs three times in January, but then he dropped off, scoring no more than seven points in the following seven games.

Tapscott considers the guard’s erratic production a testament to the struggles that come early in some players’ pro careers.

Although the Wizards own the second-worst record in the league, Tapscott, team management and the Wizards’ veteran leaders have all stood firm on their aim to win games rather than lose to improve their chances of landing the top lottery spot.

Tapscott has exercised patience with Young’s gradual development, but he has kept the guard on a short leash. Young often enters games late in the first quarter, and it’s often easy to tell what kind of performance will follow. If he comes out and knocks down a tough shot or two, he’s likely to post decent numbers. But if Young misses on his first few shots, he’s likely to spend much the remainder of the game on the bench.

“You can normally tell by movement,” Tapscott said. “Even if he misses the first couple of shots early, if he reacts properly, if you miss a couple of jump shots, what’s the next thing to do? Take it to the hole. If he’s doing that, you say, ‘OK, he’s made the adjustment.’ And you leave him in there to play. Now, a lot of times, you can’t afford to have a guy who’s struggling with his shot to shoot you out of the game. It’s not like we’re really adept at making up 10-point leads. We need to play close or be ahead to work through our own inconsistencies. … We’re trying to win games. We’re looking for best performances. So I try not to pull a guy after a mistake, but at the same time, I can’t permit three or four mistakes in a row, which puts us in a eight-point deficit.”

Young has remained upbeat for the most part despite the ups and downs. And Tapscott, who worked closely with Young last season as director of player development, understands the importance of not destroying a young player’s psyche. He talks to Young and his fellow first- and second-year teammates through many situational portions of practices and then gives them the chance to apply the lessons in live action. Then, after practice, Tapscott further challenges them by going back over the good and bad so they can get a better grasp and eventually execute with greater ease.

Tapscott and Young both have tried to make the most of more-abundant minutes with point guard Gilbert Arenas and shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson rehabbing from injuries. But with Arenas practicing again and possibly returning within the next month, opportunities will decrease for Young. For now, however, Tapscott will continue to give him a shot to show his progress.

“You’ve got to ride with them,” Tapscott said. “I always tell him, ‘If you get in there and you’re playing well, you’ll play more. If you’re in there and you’re struggling, you’re going to be in there, but I’m going to look for someone else to give us a lift. It’s the nature of the beast. It’s nothing personal.’ ”

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