Young brings muscle to fight for starting job
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It was a busy offseason for Thaddeus Young.
First, he built a new home in Memphis complete with an outdoor basketball court perfect for workouts and pick-up games. Then, Young and his longtime sweetheart, Shekinah, got married in August.
Of course the most noticeable part about Young’s summer was that he gained weight. His shoulders seem broader and he looked more solid during the first scrimmage of training camp at St. Joe’s Hagan Arena on Tuesday afternoon.
Better yet, Young gained that weight without losing his quickness and athleticism. He even increased some of the range on his shot, too, according to head coach Doug Collins. After improving his midrange shooting game significantly last season, Young has been dropping in three-pointers with regularity during scrimmages.
In fact, Young took time after practice on Tuesday to fire up some extra threes as he looks to add that facet of the game to his repertoire.
“He’s looking to be able to add perimeter shooting to his game,” Collins said. “If Thad can play a little three for us and a little four, we’re going to be much better. Thad wants to be great. It’s up to me to figure out how he best fits into our team.”
Bigger, faster, stronger … it sounds like Young is on the right path.
Actually, Young believes he was headed in the right direction last season until he got a respiratory infection that led to the infamous weight loss as well as a waning of his strength. Collins said Young ended last season weighing just 215 pounds. But now that he’s healthy with a full summer of workouts behind him, Young checked into camp weighing 234 pounds of muscle packed onto his 6-foot-8 frame.
“It hasn’t impacted my game,” Young said. “I can still get up and down the court and I can do all the same things I’ve been doing. It’s just a matter of progressing.”
It’s a matter of getting older, too, relatively speaking. At age 24 and headed into his sixth NBA season, Young is the elder statesman with the Sixers. No one has been in the Sixers’ uniform longer, which, coupled with the five-year, $43 million deal he signed before last season, makes Young an undisputed leader on the team.
And that’s a role he covets.
“It puts me in position where I have to assume the leadership role,” Young said. “It’s a position I love to be in and I want to be in because I think the guys respect me well enough that they know I’m not going to tell them anything wrong, and I’m going to do what’s best for the team.”
Now the question with Young is finding a place for him to fit in. Though he was second in the NBA’s sixth-man voting two seasons ago, Young has never hidden the fact that he would prefer to start. However, last season Young and Lou Williams came off the bench to combine for nearly 28 points per game, with Young the team’s third-highest scorer with 12.8 points per game.
Perhaps as a result of that, Collins said in August that he preferred to continue to use Young off the bench. Regardless, Young sees a friendly battle brewing amongst the forwards in attempt to snag one of those starting spots.
“There’s at least six of us competing for a starting spot,” Young said. “It’s going to be a tough training camp and it’s going to be hard, but at the end of the day we have to find the right group that’s going to mesh well.”
Nevertheless, with the improved outside shooting, ball handling and strength, Young is incredibly versatile. Most of last season he found himself coming into games to play the four-spot where his quickness was unparalleled. A few times he even found himself playing center in certain lineups.
However, Young spent the summer preparing to play the three-spot and with his improved midrange game as well as his new three-point range, he just might have the outside game to make it work. But with center Andrew Bynum out for the first three weeks of camp to recover from a bone bruise, Young likely will be getting more looks at the power forward spot.
Either way, it’s fine with him.
“It doesn’t make a difference where,” Young said. “I can still create opportunities for myself and others, I can still play the same way out of both positions. I can go in and rebound well from the three spot. I can stand under the basket and bang with the big guys.”
Certainly, Young will be plenty busy finding places to flourish. It could come while stepping into a three-pointer or fighting for position in the paint. He’s ready for whatever comes his way.E-mail John R. Finger at email@example.com