Nick Young responds to benching with solid play for Sixers

Philadelphia 76ers' Nick Young in action during an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, in Philadelphia. (Matt Slocum/AP)
Philadelphia 76ers' Nick Young in action during an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, in Philadelphia. (Matt Slocum/AP)
Posted: January 28, 2013

One way coaches evaluate players is by seeing how they respond to adversity.

For Nick Young, the 76ers' fourth-leading scorer and a key reserve, that adversity came Jan. 12 in the form of a benching in a victory over Houston.

"It hurt," said Young, who is usually the first player off the Sixers' bench. "I have been there before - my rookie year, my second year - and I know that I don't want to go back to that."

Rather than sulk, Young responded to the challenge the way the Sixers want all their players to respond: with an attitude adjustment.

"He was the first guy on back-to-back days to get upstairs and get his extra work in," said associate coach Michael Curry, who ran practice Sunday for Doug Collins (sinus infection). "All of a sudden Nick's preparation was better. And when Nick's preparation is good, his production is better on the court."

Young will make his fifth start of the season Monday as the Sixers (18-25) host Memphis (28-14). He has scored 20 points in back-to-back games against Milwaukee and New York. Coming off the bench against the Bucks, Young took out his frustrations on NBA blocks leader Larry Sanders, exploding down the middle for a one-handed dunk that had his teammates springing from the bench.

And in Saturday's 97-80 victory over Atlantic Division-leading New York, Young scored 14 of his 20 points in the third quarter, helping the Sixers push their lead from 12 points at the half to 29 late in the third quarter. He is averaging 10.7 points a game.

Collins opted to insert Young and Spencer Hawes in the starting lineup against the Knicks - Young to replace injured starter Jason Richardson (knee), and Hawes in place of struggling second-year center/forward Lavoy Allen. Curry did not say whether the change was permanent.

"They have both been playing well as of late, and they are offensive threats to start the game," Curry said. "Hopefully it can jump-start us. No matter what, though, if we are not scoring early, we can't let it affect us on the defensive end. We've got to do a better job of making it tough defensively, especially early in games."

Although the move reduced the Sixers' bench strength - the reserves accounted for just eight points against the Knicks - the Sixers played with energy and led from start to finish.

Now the trick is winning again. The Sixers have not won back-to-back games since Nov. 30.


Contact John N. Mitchell at jmitchell@philly.com. Follow @JmitchInquirer on Twitter.

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