Young is a restricted free agent, meaning any team can make him a contract offer, which the Sixers can match to retain him. And though president Rod Thorn and coach Doug Collins continuously professed their love and need for Young in a meeting with reporters on Wednesday, it might be out of their hands as to whether they are able to keep the 23-year-old.
Young made close to $4 million last season, when he thrived as a key reserve for Collins, averaging 12.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and shot 54.1 percent from the floor. Early last season, when numbers were being thrown around, rumor had it that Young and agent Jim Tanner were looking to get something close to $11 million a year. That appears pretty steep, especially when you consider someone such as reserve guard Lou Williams is locked in the middle of a 5-year, $25 million deal.
While the Sixers desperately want to retain Young, there are factors working against them. As Thorn and Collins pointed out on Wednesday, many teams are under the salary cap, some "significantly so." An offer by one of those teams could blow the Sixers out of the water. Secondly, under the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement, team payrolls must be at least 85 percent of the salary cap. If a team finds itself having to spend an extra million or two to reach that point, they might do it by throwing it at a coveted free agent, basically overpaying just to reach the 85 percent mark. That could happen to Young.
"I'm fine, just going through the whole process," Young said yesterday, from his home in Memphis. "The days start to wind down, and I figure we're close to getting something done soon. You just want the right situation to get done for you and your family. That's where I am."
The knots in Young's stomach grow with each passing day.
Williams went through the same process Young is encountering now - being a restricted free agent but wanting to stay in the city that drafted him. He got his deal before the 2008-09 season.
"I actually talked to Thad [Wednesday] and it was very brief," Williams said. "He asked me, when I went through this process, was I nervous, and I said yes, and that was the end of the conversation.
"I hope everything works out for Thad and we would love to have him back here. We know the business aspect of this. But at the end of the day, Thad's my brother. I would love to have him back here. Obviously, everybody would."
Including Young. He has spent each of his four pro seasons here after being selected 12th overall in 2007 as a 19-year-old out of Georgia Tech. He has become a man here. He wants to stay. But it is out of his hands.
"My situation is so different because it's coming after a lockout," Young said. "We're pretty much going into this with our eyes closed and hoping for the best. At the end of the day, my agent is going to find the best situation for me. Hopefully, it will be with the Sixers. I love being there, love the city, the coach is like my second father. Obviously, they are my first choice, but I don't know what's going to happen."
That is what pulls at his youthful heartstrings. He knows that no matter what contract he signs, it will be a lucrative one. But it could come from somewhere besides Philadelphla. Which prospect intrigues him most?
"It's a little bit of both," he said. "It's very exciting for me, getting a new deal and signing. But it's also definitely a situation where I've got to be nervous, because I could be on another team this season. I've been [in Philadelphia] the last 4 years. Philly is all I know. They showed they believe in me and gave me my chance. I want to stick there. But if it doesn't work out, it's a business decision and I've got to go about it in a professional way. It won't be my choice to leave. I want to continue playing there."
Keeping Young is certainly a priority. Being able to pay him what might be offered by other teams is the problem.
"As far as we're concerned, Thad is a key player for us," Thorn said. "He's a player that I think really took advantage of the coaching that he got from Doug and the other coaches on our roster and really came back to where he was 2 years ago and built on that. We love Thad."
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