Young on Verge of Returning
The trade deadline has passed, and the Pacers' roster remains unchanged. The most relevant story, then, as they prepare to resume play after the All-Star break, isn't about what starters might have departed, but the one who might be returning.
Thad Young, who has missed the last eight games with a sprained left wrist, says he's 50-50 for Friday's game against Memphis at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. That at least offers a glimmer of hope for a return to normalcy, and the best argument for ending the six-game losing streak they took into the break. Regardless of when he returns, though, he's surprised it's taken this long.
"I like to consider myself a young thundercat, where I can come back quick, fast and in a hurry," he said. "But this is my 10th season in the league and you don't heal as fast as you used to. Hopefully it feels great when I wake up in the morning."
The fact the Pacers have lost six of the games Young has missed might be a coincidence, but probably isn't. Young, their starting "four," is perhaps their most consistent player and certainly one of their most versatile. His absence doesn't explain all the issues that have contributed to the losing streak, but contributed to some of them. Players who average 11.5 points — on 50 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from the 3-point line — along with 6.1 rebounds tend to come in handy.
Young participated in most of both post-break practices, on Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon, but remains uncertain about his status for Friday. Some days he wakes up feeling fine, some days the wrist is stiff and sore. He put up a lot of shots on Thursday with his left (shooting) wrist taped, but has three weeks of rust to work off.
"The biggest thing is, all my shots are going to the left right now," he said. "I shot a three today and I was in the corner and hit the side of the backboard. I just have to work back into it."
The shot will come in time. Even without it, coach Nate McMillan wants him on the floor.
"Just his IQ," McMillan said. "He's been somewhat of a glue. He finds spots in our offense to be productive, and he makes plays defensively. He plays a lot bigger than he is at that power forward position."
Young believes the greatest impact of his absence has been on defense. The Pacers have allowed an average of 115.7 points during their losing streak. The competition has been greater, but their defense has been less versatile. Lavoy Allen and Kevin Seraphin have started in place of Young, and McMillan has gone with smaller lineups to match up to opponents during games, but nothing has really worked defensively. Allen and Seraphin aren't as agile on the perimeter as Young, and the smaller players can't defend in the post.
"He's just been a really solid defender at the four position, whether we play against big guys or small guys," McMillan said. "Just being able to match up with any opponent, whether they were big or small at the four position (helps)."
McMillan said he made some tweaks to the Pacers' offense during the break. The best adjustment he can make, however, will be to reassemble his starting lineup and allow it to feel Young again.
If not Friday, then soon.
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