Four games into the regular season and Boston Celtics wing James Young has already been assigned to the team’s Development League Affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, only to return to the parent club about 24 hours later.
The back-and-forth travel between practicing with the Celtics and playing for the Red Claws serves as a reminder of where Young stands in the team’s pecking order.
His play in the summer and the preseason, relative to the players at his position, hasn’t been good enough to gain any kind of playing time traction.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has talked often about the improvement the 6-foot-6 Young has made from last season until now, but the 20-year-old still hasn’t done enough to make a serious charge at playing time.
“Ultimately to play on our team, you have to beat out the people in front of you,” Stevens told reporters following Thursday’s practice. “And that’s the reality of the situation.”
Young is a reserve perimeter player who is on the depth chart behind Jae Crowder, Evan Turner as well as rookie R.J. Hunter who saw his first NBA action on Wednesday when he scored two points and had a team-best plus/minus of plus-8 in limited minutes.
While Hunter was making his pro debut, Young along with rookie Jordan Mickey, were assigned to the Red Claws primarily because Maine had started two-a-day practices and Stevens and the Celtics’ front office felt that conditioning would benefit them more than being around the team and not playing.
“We gotta help put these guys in position to grow as quickly as possible and as well as possible,” Stevens said. “We’re going to utilize our D-League. We look at it as more of an opportunity than anything else. It’s an extension of our team and we want to continue to use it that way.”
Young was asked about whether it was discouraging to continue being assigned to the D-League.
“It’s a process,” Young told reporters on Thursday. “I’m the youngest guy on the team. I knew this was going to happen; just keep working.”
Although this is Young’s second season, all three of the Celtics’ rookies – Terry Rozier (21 years old), Jordan Mickey (21 years old) and Hunter (22 years old) are older.
Young left the University of Kentucky after his freshman season and was selected by Boston with the 17th overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
Last season, Young appeared in 17 games for the Red Claws, averaging 21.5 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 44.2 percent on 3s and 46.3 percent from the field. For the Celtics, Young’s rookie resume consists of him appearing in 31 games while averaging 3.4 points and 1.4 rebounds to go with 0.4 assists per game.
There’s a certain expectation level that players have when they come into the league about the men they will be competing with for minutes.
Young says the competition for playing time isn’t greater than what he expected.
“We just have a lot of guys that play my position,” he said
If there’s one thing that has been proven with Stevens-coached teams in Boston, it’s that at some point all players will get their chance to shine.
Young can’t wait.
“When my time comes, it’ll come,” he said.
But until then, Young must make the most of his opportunities to showcase his talents which most likely will be with the Maine Red Claws.
And by doing so, that’ll give him the best shot of eventually working his way into the Celtics’ rotation.
“For him right now,” Stevens said, “it’s about getting those reps, continuing to improve and putting himself in position to be in that discussion.”