CHICAGO -- Four years and a month since he last appeared in the NBA, Nick Young still has that smooth, sugary stroke that made him the 16th overall pick of the 2007 NBA draft.
Lured out of retirement by an itch to play and a lucrative five-figure monthly salary, Young has taken his talents and swag to Dubai, where he is suiting up for Strong Group Philippines in a prestigious invitational tournament.
In his debut at the 32nd Dubai International Championships, Young did not disappoint, swishing 13 points and giving the opposing defense fits while helping Strong Group hold off the United Arab Emirates national team, 91-87.
In his second outing two days ago, this time a comfortable win over Al Nasr-Libya, Young was held to a meager three points in limited play.
That's when alarm bells started screaming like it was a five-alarm fire.
As it turned out, Young is nursing an aching knee and will only be restful, not restless, when Strong Group tackles a formidable Al Wahda Syria today.
BUT YOUNG BEING SIDELINED IS JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG.
"We are talented for sure but we are young, basically a college team out here. We are probably the youngest team here and, in all likelihood, the smallest.
"Our tallest players are Nick Young and Justine Baltazar at 6-foot-7. Shabazz Muhammad is 6-foot-6 while other teams all have 7-foot and 6-foot-10 bigs. They also have wings at 6-foot-7." Strong Group head coach Charles Tiu told me over the phone.
The Jacob Lao-owned team originally tapped 6-foot-10 Ange Kouame when he assembled this All-Star team but the former Ateneo star has been sidelined by dengue fever.
Which means coach Tiu is forced to deal with the cruel hands he's been dealt with.
And that means an all-hands-on-deck approach that may require former NBA player and import Muhammad, who has scored 50 so far in two games, to do most of the heavy-lifting.
A lot will also be asked from Renaldo Blackman, Sedrick Barefield, BJ Andrade, Kevin Quiambao, Jerom Lastimosa, Francis Lopez, JD Cagulangan, Miguel Oczun, Inand Fornillos and Lao, who saw action in the game versus Libya.
Even with their challenges, Strong Group is a shoo-in to finish in the Top 2 of their division.
By then, hopefully, they can be fully healthy and make a push for the crown.
The guesting of the Bay Area Dragons in the recently-concluded Commissioner's Cup proved to be a massive hit for the PBA.
Fans were more engages than ever and that was reflected in the gigantic crowds that trooped to the playing venues during the Finals that also featured Ginebra.
It might not be a bad idea to invite Strong Group to be a guest team in the future.
Loaded with talent and extremely well-funded, Strong Group sure can give any ream in the SMC and MVP groups a run for their money.
AND ONE. At least three teams are interested in taking in Shabazz Muhammad as their import. And while the former NBAer is eager to come back, don't hold your breath.
The San Miguel Beermen, sources told me, aren't interested in releasing his rights to another team.
Can you blame them?2023-01-31T12:13:19Z dg43tfdfdgfd