'Drew' legend Young looks forward to season

LOS ANGELES -- Nick Young's popularity around the NBA has grown thanks in part to his self-appointed "Swaggy P" nickname. But long before that handle became synonymous with Young's high-scoring, light-hearted exploits, he has been known as "I Am Legend" at The Drew League, a summer basketball league in Los Angeles.

"I've been a one-man show since I started at the Drew League," Young said on Sunday, explaining his other moniker. "I've been playing at the Drew for a while. I never played with no NBA people on my team or nothing. That's why."

Now there are plenty of NBA players lining up to play in the league known simply as "The Drew." After Young's team won thanks to 26 points from him Sunday (on 21 shots), there were six current or former pros playing in the game after his in Baron Davis, Metta World Peace, Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Rashad McCants.

"It's most definitely growing each year," Young said of the league that he has been playing in for an estimated 6-7 years. "We get players from everywhere coming out and it's in a bigger gym. Nike is behind it now, you get free Nikes now. Back then you had to bring your own shoes."

Nike started sponsoring the league in 2013 and moved the venue from Charles Drew Junior High School to King Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science to accommodate more fans.

Young used to play in "The Drew" with his brother. These days his team, M.H.P. (which stands for Most Hated Players), is coached by his father, Charles Young Jr., features his cousin Adrian "Big Meat" Pascascio on the roster, and won't go a game without his mother, Mae, cheering on from the stands.

"I'm from L.A,," Young said after saying goodbye to close to two dozen people before exiting the gym Sunday. "It's home. It's like a family up here."

Young is hoping his tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers will start to feel the same way. The Lakers signed Young to a four-year contract extension worth $21.5 million this offseason.

"Of course they made me a priority by giving me four years and that's something that I wanted really, just to be part of the team," said Young, coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 17.9 points per game.

Despite his strong individual showing last season, Young said he knew the chances of him returning to L.A. hinged on the Lakers' pursuit of Carmelo Anthony.

"I wasn't sure," Young said. "We had a couple other offers, but we were waiting. Everybody was really waiting on what Melo was going to do and it all depended on what Melo was going to do. Obviously he went back home and I guess I was secondary, but hey, I'm here."

Davis, a fellow L.A. native who went to UCLA before later playing for the Los Angeles Clippers, said that having homegrown talent go on to become NBA players in the L.A. market has an impact on the community.

"Nick's finally starting to get his credit and it's good that the Lakers stepped up to the plate and showed that they wanted him to be here," Davis said. "I think he has a growing brand and he's a young player that can do some things. It means a lot for the community to have local guys on the Lakers, because it means something to the Drew, it means something to the little kids growing up here that want to play basketball, aspire to be basketball players. When you got some L.A. guys on your local home team, it makes a big difference."

Young said playing alongside Kobe Bryant has made an even bigger difference for him personally.

"He's been great, really," Young said. "He's been like my mentor, really, right now. He's been calling, texting me, talking to me, motivating me. I think that's big. Growing up, who would have thought Kobe would be the one doing all that? I didn't ever think I'd be working out with Kobe or talking to him."

Pascascio, who also works as Young's assistant, said he has noticed the change in his cousin since he joined the Lakers.

"He grew a lot," Pascascio said. "He matured a lot last year, learning from Kobe. Learning more than just getting buckets. He did other things. It was good. And he was looking forward to coming back."

The Lakers' other offseason moves have only added to Young's anticipation.

"I think it played out all right," Young said. "I don't think nobody was expecting Jeremy Lin to be here this year or Carlos Boozer, and we just ended up getting Byron Scott [as coach]."

Scott, of course, served as a television analyst on the Lakers' flagship station, Time Warner Cable SportsNet, last season where he inspired more than a few YouTube clips with his impersonation of Young.

"I heard all different kinds of stuff about Byron," Young said with a smile. "I just remember him doing my little Swaggy P impression. ... We'll talk about that. Now I have a chance to talk trash about it every day."

Young doesn't mind that the Lakers are already being counted out of the playoffs in what's sure to be a deep Western Conference next season, either.

"We ain't worried about nothing out here," Young said. "We're just going to go out here and do what we do. We like to be underdogs."

And he even has a new self-appointed nickname to reflect his upcoming role as Bryant's sidekick.

"Batman needs Robin," Young said. "I'm here, 'The Boy Wonder.' The Boy Wonder is here. That's what I'm here for."