- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2012

Nick Young knows better than anyone the knock on him — that he’s a one-dimensional player who does nothing but shoot. The Washington Wizards guard, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, says he’s ready to change that perception.

“Its like every year they say I can’t do this, I can’t do that, can’t defend,” Young said.

Wizards coach Flip Saunders gave Young that chance Wednesday night. Saunders employed a three-guard set in the fourth quarter of Washington’s 105-102 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder and put Young on two-time NBA scoring champion, Kevin Durant.

“I was just trying to get a hand in his [Durant‘s] face,” Young said. “I know he is one of the top scorers in the league and that they were going to run the offense through him. I wanted to play my hardest with him.”

Neither Young nor the Wizards contained Durant, who scored 33 points on 11-of-24 shooting, but Durant did have trouble from the 3-point line (2-of-10).

“I know [Durant] likes to get people in the air, draw fouls,” Young said. “I just stayed on the ground and waited till he got in the air and just put my hand up. I didn’t want to go for the pump fake.”

Young may not challenge anyone for Defensive Player of the Year, but paying attention to other aspects of his game beyond scoring is necessary for him to silence critics and become multidimensional.

“I just [wanted to] go out there and prove them wrong,” Young said of those who claim offense is his only skill. “I hope people see how hard I played on defense [Wednesday] night.

“I passed up couple of shots. I could have got a couple more shots off, [but] I was trying to be unselfish, trying to run the clock down a little bit. I try to bring something different to the table every night.”

For the Wizards to build upon their stunning victory and turn around their dismal 2-12 start, that’s the attitude and mindset Young will need to have.

“I thought [Young] did a good job on Durant,” Saunders said. “Sometimes, you’re afraid to put a smaller guy on him, thinking he can just shoot over him every time, but sometimes little guys have a tendency to be in your legs a little bit, be a little bit pestier, and that’s what Nick did.”

Center JaVale McGee said the team finally is starting to “get it” on the defensive end.

“I think we’re becoming more of a defensive-minded team, rather than an offensive team,” McGee said. “If you play good defense, your offense will come.”

If the Wizards are buying into that philosophy, it’s a change that could produce wins. Young might not have to guard Kevin Durant every night, but it will pay off in the long run to continue being a “pest” on defense.