James Young Earns Celtics' Final Roster Spot
WALTHAM, Mass. – James Young entered this past offseason facing the uncertainty of whether or not he would make the Boston Celtics’ final roster come late-October. He knew, entering his third season with the organization, that the C’s had an incredibly deep team, and his spot would be far from guaranteed.
Instead of wavering beneath that uncertainty, the 21-year-old guard used it as motivation.
“Right after Summer League, I sat down and talked with my dad and my brother and they just kept it real with me,” Young recollected. “After that, I was in the gym every day working out with my brother and some assistant coaches, and that’s when I knew I was hungry.”
Young discovered Monday morning that his tireless hard work had work paid off. When he arrived to the Celtics’ practice facility in Waltham, Mass., he learned, to his relief, that he had earned Boston’s 15th and final roster spot for the 2016-17 season.
“It’s a blessing to be a part of this organization again,” Young told the media Monday afternoon. “I’m really happy, so I’m just going [to continue] to come here every day to work hard.”
Young had an inconsistent role with the Celtics during his first two seasons, having made 48 total trips between Boston and its D-League affiliate Maine Red Claws. He came into camp with some extra fire in his eyes and he showed improvements to all aspects of his game.
During seven preseason appearances, Young averaged 5.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 17.1 minutes per game, which translates to 11.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per 36 minutes. He also shot 42.4 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from 3-point range, which were far above his career averages of 34.1 percent and 25.0 percent, respectively.
Brad Stevens said Young’s preseason play “was by far the best six weeks that he’s had since he’s been here.”
“I think he’s trending in a good direction,” said the coach. “The biggest thing at that age is figuring out what you do best and doing it every day. I’ve seen a lot more consistency and a really, really good approach.”
Added president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, “He had to come out and win a spot with some good competition, and he did. He just needs to keep doing what he’s been doing. He’s had a good six weeks of consistent play, hard work and professionalism, and that’s what he needs to continue to do.”
While Young was relieved in learning that he had made the team, it was also a bittersweet moment for him. By keeping Young, the Celtics were forced to cut one player. At 5 p.m. Monday evening the organization announced that it had waived second-year guard R.J. Hunter, who Young says was his closest friend on the team.
“It’s real tough, man. That was like my best friend,” Young said with a solemn shake of his head. “It’s tough when something like this happens, but it’s the league so you never know what’s going to happen.”
The decision was tough on Stevens as well, as he has known Hunter since his high school days.
“The one part of the business that sucks every time no matter what is when you have to make roster decisions,” said Stevens, “because it’s real people and I’ve certainly known R.J. for a long time.
“I think he’s really improved and has gotten better. I had a pretty decent, long talk with him this morning and told him this is part of a path to a great career, and I truly believe he’ll have a great career.”
Ainge also believes that this marks only the beginning for the sharpshooting 23-year-old.
“I think R.J. will get at least one more chance, maybe multiple chances, because he’s a good player,” said Ainge. “I think he can help a team and there may be a team where he gets a better opportunity to play.”
As for Young, he’s looking to capitalize on his latest opportunity with the team and prove to the Celtics that they made the right decision.
“I’ve got to keep coming in here and getting better,” said Young. “I’ve got a lot more growing to do both defensively and offensively, and I’m just looking forward to [reaching] my potential.”
In order to reach that potential, Young must continue to come to the gym with the same hard-working attitude that he’s been displaying every day for the last few months. The same attitude that earned him another chance with the C’s.