Thaddeus Young has experience being a veteran leader on a young team and will bring a focus on making sure the culture of the team is one that can lead the Bulls to future growth
Think back to your preseason prediction for the Indiana Pacers going into the 2017-18 season. That was after Paul George gave his trade-me ultimatum and was shipped off to Oklahoma City for a couple of previously underachieving kids, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. It's also when the team's second leading scorer from the 42-40 team, Jeff Teague, departed as a free agent. What was left was just a team of mostly talented kids of high potential, top draft picks like Oladipo, Myles Turner and Sabonis.
And a tough minded veteran named Thaddeus Young.
Who didn't believe age or inexperience was an excuse for not being a high achieving playoff team, like the one the surprise young Pacers became to win 48 games and finish a solid fifth in the Eastern Conference.
And now the Bulls?
"As you guys probably know in Indiana, that was one of the biggest things; we had to switch up the culture," Young told reporters in Las Vegas in his first comments since signing a free agent contract with the Bulls. "In switching up that culture we were able to have two consecutive 48-win seasons and I would like to think I was a big part of helping us switch the culture. I just want to do the same thing similar to what I did in Indiana, bring that hard work mentality, that hard hat mentality each and every night. Being there for my guys and staying healthy and making sure I am willing my guys to victory and just bringing that leadership and attitude and that dog and that grit to each and every game."
No one around the Bulls is exactly saying it as predictions haven't gone well in recent years. But if the rebuilding isn't over, it's no longer a reason not to be a competitor in the conference. At least the way Young sees it. With the addition of veteran point guard Tomas Satoransky, Otto Porter Jr., also from Washington, last season and rookies Coby White and Daniel Gafford to go along with some moves still pending, the Bulls look like they might be past nascent and onto, "Well, they're a surprise."
That's what the 12-year veteran Young sees in this Bulls team that features young veteran talents Zach LaVine, who was a teammate of Young's in Minnesota, and Lauri Markkanen along with Wendell Carter Jr. It's one thing to ask the kids to figure it out. It's another when someone who has been in 51 playoff games is there to show them how it's done.
Young spoke to reporters Monday night after the Bulls Summer League loss to the New Orleans Pelicans and emphasized the familiar need of a culture change. But he explained how he is going to help deliver that.
Yes, open the locker room door. An adult is in the room.
Asked what he will bring to the team, Young said, "From the aspect of going out there and being a leader, being able to talk to guys, being the most experienced on the team, having the most playoff games and being able to go out there and help lead these guys and show these guys this is how we should play basketball and bringing that team oriented concept, but also switching up the culture a little bit.
"It starts by not getting tired of the grind," Young explained. "Not getting tired of the repetitive nature. A lot of guys, they tend to get tired of the repetitive nature, coming to practice each and every day and doing the same thing over and over. But when you do those things over and over it helps you get better as a team and helps you become able to win more games as a team. So we have to continue to keep that grind, continue to stay focused and continue to stay locked in on the task at hand, which is winning basketball games and getting to the playoffs."
Which sounded almost Thibsian, though with a strong hint of enforcement. Almost like when Michael Jordan would clear out the trainer's room for practice. "Nobody's hurt! Right!"
In other words, get out there and play. And don't stop.
"I think we have a real (strong) roster," Young said about the Bulls. "Last year we had so many guys that were out due to injury that you really could not see the potential of this team. But when they were healthy they were a force to be dealing with. They play hard, continue to be aggressive and continue to fight and continue to do things that can help a team win. Injuries bit them in the butt a little bit, but just going in to change the culture, being the leader. It starts with being in that mode of continuing to do something repetitive and believing in that."
The roster isn't quite set yet. Carter is out for the summer with surgery and Markkanen looks like the power forward starter, where Young has been a starter his last seven seasons.
"Obviously you always want too start, but if coach sees fit to bring me off the bench I will deal with that and continue to display (professionalism)," Young said. "I've done it before when I played for Doug Collins, who is actually in Chicago as a special advisor. I played three straight years for him coming off the bench. It's not that big of a deal. You just have to come in and get your Lu-Wil on. But at the end of the day, like I said, I am here to help lead this team, help build culture and make sure we put ourselves in position to win games."
It happened in Indiana with young players who had been losing, traded, injured and uncertain with a team no one considered seriously. But which added a couple of support veterans who weren't so much about process as performance.
"It's a young team," the loquacious Young said about the Bulls. "I've taken on that role plenty of times in my career with different teams. Being in Minnesota with Zach and (Andrew) Wiggins, you come to Indiana and those guys had just won 42 games. But we had to reshape our culture after Paul George leaves. Then a 48-win season and another 48-win season. The guys got younger, you had Victor coming in, Domantas. You had a Myles Turner. So I've taken on that role as a leader and helping shape and deal with culture and we all know what happened in Philly. I was there at the start of the process. We had a horrible season, but I went out and played my butt off to fight each and every night.
"It's was like bringing a knife to a gun fight, but at the end of the day I was swinging with the knife," said Young. "I've been in these situations before. I understand this situation and I know the task is very, very hard and I know a lot is being asked of me. But I carry that weight on my shoulders each and every day. I know I can help these young guys get better. And I know I can help push them over the hump."
Welcome to Chicago. Could it finally be that new day?
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