Big season ahead for Thad Young?

Sixers' Lavoy Allen tries to keep ball away from Celtics' Kevin Garnett.
Sixers' Lavoy Allen tries to keep ball away from Celtics' Kevin Garnett. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: October 23, 2012

BOSTON - As requested, the bulk was added, the shot finely tuned.

Sixers forward Thaddeus Young added an extra 20 pounds to help him play the power forward spot. Last season, Young often went up against players 40 pounds or more heavier than his light 215.

His shot, once above- average from 15-18 feet, had - by Young's admission - become suspect over the past couple of seasons. So during the offseason, before and after weightlifting sessions that severely swelled his upper body, Young shot jumper after jumper, knowing that consistently being able to hit the midrange shot might enable him to play some small forward as well this season.

With Young, you just never know where he might be needed. He is the ultimate tweener, whose 6-9 height belongs at power forward, but whose speed lends itself to playing small forward.

So far, Young is exactly what coach Doug Collins envisioned.

"Thad's playing great - high energy, high activity," said Collins before Sunday's, 88-79, win over the Boston Celtics at TD Garden in the Sixers' next-to-last preseason game. "I think Thad probably came into camp from the start maybe thinking a little bit about that three spot. I just think with our team, the way that we're built, [it's best] for Thad to be that hybrid four with this speed. The other night [against Brooklyn] the spacing on the floor he really took advantage of that, getting to open areas. The game wasn't as congested for him and he got a lot of shots around the basket with his punch-ins and leaking out on the break. I'm very pleased with Thad, I think he's in a really good spot."

A key bench player for Collins the past two seasons, Young has found himself in the starting lineup after the first two preseason games (he was given off Sunday) when Collins started Kwame Brown and Spencer Hawes. The coach immediately saw a need to get more speed on the court, which Young provides. While Andrew Bynum's status still remains uncertain, it's also not clear if starting Young will be Collins' final decision. Sunday, when asked about Young starting, Collins said: "I'm not going to go there, yet."

For Young, it's all business as usual.

"I just go out there and try to create mismatch problems with the opposing forwards and big guys," he said. "Last game [against Brooklyn] we knew that they were going to go big against us inside so the thing about it for me was to keep Kris Humphries off the boards and just try to outrun him and beat him in transition and tire his legs. I know even if I get the rebound, or someone else gets the rebound, I can beat my man up and down the court. I'm probably just as quick as most guards, as far as foot speed. It's a matter of just getting to the basket and pulling guys with me and creating opportunities for guys like J-Rich [Jason Richardson] and Dorell [Wright]."

Now the longest-tenured Sixer as he enters his sixth season with the club, Young has seen a lot of changes during his time in Philly. What he hasn't seen is Bynum in the middle, yet. But that hasn't deterred his excitement.

"This is probably the best team that I've played on," he said. "I think we can be a great playoff team, we spread the court better than we did in past years - with Dorell, J-Rich and Nick [Young]. This year can be a special year for us if we keep on the same page and just stay together. I think we're playing well. I just hope that when we do insert the big guy in the middle that it doesn't take away what we're trying to do on the offensive end and the defensive end.

"Hopefully when we do insert him, he comes right in and we're off to a roll and getting the job done. He's also going to help space things out. With him being inside the paint teams are going to have to double-team and guard him."

Game stuff

Dorell Wright had a terrific all-around game off the bench, going for 20 points and five rebounds and providing very good defense as the Sixers improved to 5-1 in the preseason. Nick Young also added 15 points and Spencer Hawes 12 off the bench as the Sixers reserves scored 56 points. Starters Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner chipped in with 10 each.

The Sixers started out by making half of their first eight three-point attempts before finishing the game 7-for-24. They used a 10-0 run at the end of the first half to break open a tie game, and held on to the lead for the rest of the contest.

Boston, which fell to 2-4, was paced by Rajon Rondo, who collected 12 points and 10 assists and Jeff Green's 12 points and 10 rebounds. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were limited to just 5-for-19 shooting from the floor.

"Our starting group struggled," said Doug Collins. "When you take the stretch out [where they played] then I thought we really did some good things. Dorell came in and played great. We had some guys do a really good job, it's just that starting unit was not a good fit. That's what I have to go with, with resting Thad.

I'm feeling a competitive heart [with the team] which I like. Regardless of who is out there, who is playing, whatever the score is, whatever the situation might be, I think we have guys who really want to win, which is a good thing to have."

The Sixers didn't come out of the game unscathed as Turner twisted his left ankle after a hard foul on Jared Sullinger at the end of the third quarter and did not return. The team called the injury a sprain.

"He rolled an ankle and probably won't play [Monday against the Knicks]. It will give him a chance to get some rest. I was hoping he would be able to get some good minutes in [Monday] but I don't want him out there if his ankle is sore."

Following the game Turner was limping a little bit but didn't appear to have much swelling and gave a thumbs-up when asked how he was.


Contact Bob Cooney at cooneyb@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @BobCooney76. For more Sixers coverage, read his blog at philly.com/Sixerville.

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