What will veteran Thaddeus Young bring to the young Bulls team?
Learn more about the Bulls' newest forward Thaddeus Young, who was drafted 12th overall in 2007
Thaddeus Young may not be the profile of the modern NBA player, but he's the kind of player you want to have on your team for not only what he means to teammates but to the game, writes Sam Smith.
It was the first preseason game for the Indiana Pacers in the 2015-16 season. They'd acquired nine-year veteran forward Thaddeus Young that summer from the New Jersey Nets, but preseason, regular season, post season, it was the same for Young. He was coming to compete. Indeed, almost unheard of these days.
When the game was over and the Pacers had a 17-point victory, it was Young with his first double/double as a Pacer even though it wouldn't register in the official statistics. It was Young taking on the opponent's best player, this time superstar forward Anthony Davis who would miss 10 of 13 shots, pressuring for the steals that has kept Young among the league leaders every season of his career and proud to give his best because it was an NBA game.
A Pacers executive approached Young after the game, smiled and said, "Thank you, you're my new hero."
Thaddeus Charles Young may not be one of the NBA megastar player/executives assembling top talent. The fluid 6-8 forward may not even be that well known to most NBA fans despite a 12-year career averaging in double figures every year but his 2007-08 rookie season with almost 700 starts and starting 81 of 82 games the last two seasons as he turned 30.
But he's known inside the basketball board rooms and to players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James. They don't sound like the famous matchups, like Kobe and LeBron or Michael and Magic. But when the top stars played the Pacers, it was against Thad Young.
"Thaddeus Young, he's a great guy," Antetokounmpo said last season. "Amazing player. Amazing teammate. Plays hard. Thad is a great defensive player and I love playing against him."
Giannis likely will be this season with Young in his fifth NBA jersey, this time with the Bulls as the Bulls Saturday with the conclusion of the NBA moratorium announced the free agent signing of Young. The Bulls also announced they have waived guards Shaquille Harrison and Walt Lemon Jr. from the Summer League team.
Last year, the Pacers took some kidding for posting a statistic that Young was one of five players in NBA history to average at least 13.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals and shoots at least 49 percent and 30 percent on threes. The other four? Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and LeBron James.
You'll excuse the Pacers for their pride in Young, who played three seasons in Indiana.
But teammates, friends, media and opponents compare Young with those types of players, if not in statistical production but in what they mean to a franchise and the game.
Young isn't the profile of the modern NBA player. He doesn't pass particularly well and is a career 33 percent three-point shooter. He doesn't get to the free throw line much and isn't exactly a rim protector.
I'm a grinder. I feel like I'm definitely not the greatest player in the world, but I'm a good player, I can do a lot of things on the court to help my team win games.
He's just the kind of player you want to have on your team for not only what he means to teammates but to the game.
He’s the guy who’s always out there, the guy they come up with all the blue collar sobriquets for, a grinder, glue guy, old school.
He's been the Pacers' leader these last three years in all those little things that just have begun to get measured, contesting shots, plus/minus, lack of blowbys. He's the guy who helps force the pass that leads to a late, quick shot, the guy who gets the fast break started by fronting and covering his man so the pass had to be misdirected and picked off by someone else. He's the guy who doesn't need any plays for his dozen or so points he'll get every game without anyone much noticing.
In Indiana, Victor Oladipo was the new star; they called Thad Young the heartbeat.
He plays the Rajon Rondo role of working with and encouraging the young players at a time he leads the veterans. Oladipo's gruesome injury January 23 early in a game against Toronto effectively ended Indiana's hopes for a magical season. So it was Young in that game who immediately stepped in to the scoring role, getting 23 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Pacers to the win. The Pacers still would go on to win 48 games as the league leader in fewest points allowed and third in defensive efficiency.
It's the type of play and attitude that has earned Young if not the universal appreciation of fans, the respect and admiration of peers. He was a finalist for the league's Twyman-Stokes teammate award and a regular among media favorites. Indiana media say he's never refused interviews no matter the occasion or impact, always speaking up for and on behalf of the team and his teammates.
Top five academically in his high school class, Young even has started a private investment business during his NBA career while being close to completing his MBA. He recently told One37pm, a web site, about his financial interests as part of his makeup as a good partner.
"I started in the league when I was just turning 19 years old," said Young, who played at Georgia Tech. "Seven days after my 19th birthday, I was drafted. Just watching guys as I was coming up, the luxuries of playing with a lot of different guys throughout the course of my career. I started off with Andre Miller, who was a phenomenal leader. Very quiet, but he knew how to lead and speak when those moments came. All out tough guy when it comes to guys I was playing with like Reggie Evans. He didn't score very many points, but he grabbed a lot of rebounds and his leadership was amazing. Theo Ratliff, Donyell Marshall, Elton Brand and a guy who's winning championships right now, Andre Iguodala.
"Those guys were very pivotal for me as a player. Then some older guys like Kevin Ollie. They helped show me how to lead, how to play the game. In these last couple of years in playing for the Pacers, each and every year I feel like I got better with the team simply because of the leadership role that they were asking of me and me going out there and understanding how to play the game and playing with younger guys, teaching and showing them how we need to play in order to win. And getting them to believe in the team concept. People counted us out, but I told (teammates) ‘Everybody doesn't need to be a hero.'
"We can be a hero in our own sense, but when you think about it and look at all of these different movies with all these different heroes, even the best heroes still needed help. All the heroes had to come together at some point," said Young, continuing with the team star analogy. "That's why you have Justice League and Avengers and all those different characters. Batman had a Robin. All the heroes had to come together and form an alliance where they could come in and get rid of the villain."
Thaddeus Young, he's a great guy. Amazing player. Amazing teammate. Plays hard. Thad is a great defensive player and I love playing against him.
Young played for Bulls senior advisor Doug Collins in Philadelphia and has been involved in trades, generally on the other side of stars like Kevin Garnett and Kevin Love. He played mostly with losing teams until the last three seasons in Indiana, though he has played in 51 playoff games and made a buzzer beater winner for the 76ers in a first round series.
"Just about every team I've been on has been an underdog," he told ESPN last season. "I like playing that way, I like being the underdog. I like playing with a chip on my shoulder. I like playing with a sense of urgency. Because when you're not playing with a sense of urgency, that's when people creep up on you. That's when they beat you. I'm a grinder. I feel like I'm definitely not the greatest player in the world, but I'm a good player, I can do a lot of things on the court to help my team win games. And at the end of the day, that's the thing that's kept me in the league. I don't try to shy away from something that I can do in order to do something that I can't do."
Sometimes it's good to get Young. With a veteran addition.
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