SALT LAKE CITY -- There’s a certain trajectory that most first-round picks take during their first couple of seasons in the NBA.
Needless to say, James Young’s journey with the Boston Celtics has been anything but run-of-the-mill.
Injuries, and an inability to take full advantage of his few opportunities to play, have Young at a crossroads of sorts when it comes to his NBA future.
That’s why this summer has tremendous value for the 20-year-old.
And that’s why his play in Boston’s 89-82 win over Utah on Tuesday night in Summer League play was so important.
He had 16 points, which was the most he’s ever scored in an NBA game -- Summer League, regular season or the playoffs. And in Tuesday’s win, Young drained a corner 3-ball that was arguably the biggest shot of the night. It put the game away with less than 20 seconds to play.
“The shot he made in the corner was huge,” said Celtics assistant Micah Shrewsberry, who's coaching the Summer League team. “Just being able to have the mental focus to knock one in that kind of put the game on ice. It’s good for him. Anytime you can have positive results like that in a pressure situation, everybody builds off of.”
Coaches aren’t the only ones who have noticed how Young seems to be embracing this season with a heightened level of focus and intent to prove his many naysayers wrong.
“He’s more serious about . . . it's grind time for him,” said Celtics guard Terry Rozier. “It’s more serious. You can tell he wants it more. He’s not relaxing. He’s taking defense serious more than anything. That’s a big help. When you see that growth, that shows his maturity.”
For Young, patience and preparation have gone hand-in-hand of late for him.
Now he’s dealing with that other ‘P’ word -- playing.
“I’ve been putting a lot of work in,” he said. “It’s starting to show off; just keep working until I’m where I need to be.”
The Celtics have no expectations for Young in terms of minutes played this season or anything like that.
“Continued progress and growth” is what coach Brad Stevens hopes are the big takeaways from Young’s play this summer.
“We showed this on film the other day,” Stevens said. “James has a feel for what we’re trying to do on defense and offense. He is clearly playing more instinctual than he was before and a lot more instinctual than our young guys, our other new guys. That was a positive.”
For Young, the road to NBA success has not been smooth.
But he’s showing more and more signs of starting to at least get a better feel for what he can and cannot do on the basketball floor.
Because when all is said and done, Young understands there’s only one way that he’ll get better.
“I just have to keep on working,” he said.